Best Tomato Soup with Best Simple Grilled Cheese

Grilled cheese and best tomato soup ever

Grilled cheese and best tomato soup ever




Who doesn’t know tomato soup and grilled cheese go fantastically together?





It is spring here in Connecticut and approaching Memorial day weekend. As with many years, New England never really has a true Spring. The temperatures fluctuate like crazy, so here I find myself on a foggy cool day in May wanting some tomato soup and grilled cheese.

I searched my own blog to see how I have done it in the past because I make a great tomato soup. Heaven to Betsy, I find I never published a creamy tomato soup recipe. So here it is:


1 Large onion, divided. 1/2 diced and cut into quarters (You can use 2 med onions)
4 – 7 Large garlic cloves. If using Elephant garlic, 3 cloves will do nicely. Otherwise, 4 – 7, peeled
3 – 4 fresh plum tomatoes, sliced into 3rds (about 1/2 inch thick
1 Red bell pepper, seeded and cut into big chunks
1 large shallot, diced
4 stalks celery inner stalks. Celery AND celery leaves diced (You won’t believe how much flavor the leaves have)
2 TBS extra virgin olive oil
1 32oz can/box low/no fat or salt chicken stock (to make this vegetarian – substitute with Vegetable stock)
1 28oz can crushed tomatoes
1 28oz can diced tomatoes with basil
2 cups low sodium V8 Juice
1 Cup cooking sherry
1 TBS sugar
4 – 6 fresh basil leaves
1 package cream cheese (light or regular – skip to make this vegan)
1 Pint Heavy Cream (Can use light cream or whole/2% milk)
1/2 cup parmesan cheese (Shredded, grated) Skip to make this vegan – you may just need to add more salt
salt and pepper


Preheat oven to 450

  1. Put the quartered onion, whole garlic, fresh tomatoes and red bell pepper on a baking sheet. Drizzle with 1 TBS of olive oil and lightly sprinkle with salt and pepper. Roast for about 20 – 30 minutes or until the vegetables start to shrivel and slightly char. Not BURNED.
  2. In the mean time, in a large stock pot (you will need at least a 6 – 7 qt pot), add the other TBS of olive oil, chopped onions, shallots, and celery and celery leaves. Saute and slightly caramelize.
  3. Add in the roasted vegetable, chicken stock, both cans of tomatoes, V8 juice, sherry and sugar. Let simmer for 2 hours stirring occasionally.
  4. Put the cream/milk into a small sauce pot and warm over low heat, stirring often. This will bring it to the same temperature as the soup so it does not curdle when you add it.
  5. Use an emersion blender or ladle the soup into a blender (in batches), add in basil leaves, parmesan cheese, cream cheese and puree.
  6. Strain if you want a smooth tomato soup. Me – I like the extra pulp.
  7. Put all back into a clean pot and bring to a light simmer over med-low heat.
  8. Add in the cream. Continue to stir and taste. Adjust seasoning – salt, pepper – as needed.
  9. Let simmer for 15 minutes, then it is ready to serve!

TIPS: You can skip the roasting, but I would recommend getting a jar/can of roasted red peppers to add. It really makes this soup. Do not Skip the sautéing of the vegetables.

Grilled Cheese

There are several ways to make grilled cheese, however, the most important is how to sear the bread, Crisping the bread on both sides makes a big difference, especially if you add more than cheese.


Per sandwich:

2 slices quality bread (No holes – or cheese will seep through and nothing left in your sandwich)
1 TBS butter
3 – 4 slices of cheese – you can mix this up


  1. In a cast iron skillet (or other pan you like), Heat the pan over med heat.
  2. Butter both slices of the bread on both sides.
  3. Place one side down in the pan for 30 – 40 seconds, just enough to sear it and slightly brown it
  4. Next build your sandwich. Place the bread on a plate or cutting board raw side down. On the side you just browned, add the cheese to one side of the bread. Place the other slice of bread on top.
  5. Place the sandwich in the hot pan and sear on one side for 2 minutes (over med – med low heat), then flip and do the other side.
  6. Take off heat, give it a minute to sit, then slice and serve with the soup.

** You could do it under a broiler, however, I have found the browning uneven with this method.


Add meat: thin slice of ham, pepperoni, turkey, prosciutto (or other deli meat)
Add greens: spinach, arugula, kale or other green you like
Add tomato slices
Add herbs: basil, cilantro, parsley
Add hot pepper
Add some spices

I hope you can enjoy this year round. It really is the true food paring! Have fun with it!

Asian Vegetable Pasta Salad


My mom first made a version of this years ago and it has always been a hit at parties and barbecues ever since. I modified it a bit to suit my preferences and I recently served it at a company barbecue where they had a vote for best side dishes. This came in third. Cheese stuffed pepperdews and spicy mac&cheese beat me out. They were delicious and who doesn’t love cheese in any form? I do rest in the fact this is the first time any pasta dish ever won in the top three.

It is chock full of veggies and flavor and a unique and welcome pasta dish. It is fantastic for summer time as there is nothing in it that will spoil in the sun and it is healthy with a good ratio of pasta to veggies. This dish can be served cold, room temp or slightly warm.

It can all be made in one day and served, but I find it best to make it a day ahead. There is a bit of prep work involved for the vegetables, unless you take advantage of the pre-cut veggies at your local supermarket. That will save a lot of time. A food processor or mini chopper also help to make quick work of a number of items. When I am pressed for time, I take advantage of any short cut I can find. When I have time, I relish the meditation I get when I hand cut, chop and prep the ingredients (for any recipe really). I get satisfaction knowing I did it and the ingredients do taste better freshly cut. But by all means, take the short cuts.

One of the big changes I made was to the prep to the vegetables. May not sound like there is much you can do, but I do not like RAW broccoli, Cauliflower or brussels sprouts. So I add a step to slightly blanch them in the pasta water then put them in an ice bath to cool them down. This serves two purposes: The pasta water is salted and in the process of blanching imparts some salt and flavor to them; They cook slightly softening them and allowing them to better soak up the dressing/marinade imparting a TON of flavor. You are welcome to skip this step if you prefer all raw vegetables. I also cut/break the vegetables up into smaller pieces, no bigger than a small cherry or grape tomato. It really makes eating them easier and with them smaller, each vegetable is better penetrated by the dressing making each bite an explosion in flavor.

My dressing is slightly different, mainly in amounts and ratios. I do add a bit more ginger. Ginger is not only a big flavor component, in certain quantities, it can also add some “heat” level to a dish.

One step I did keep and is very important not to skip is seasoning the pasta while it is still hot. When the pasta is warm, it is more likely to absorb the flavors/seasonings added. In this case, the seasoning is simple – and that is tossing the drained pasta with toasted sesame oil and fresh black pepper and spread on a sheet pan to cool faster. Toss the pasta frequently to release the steam until it is room temp.

The type of sesame oil here is important. Toasted or Dark sesame oil work best for a stronger flavor. A lighter sesame oil does not add as much flavor. But if that is all you can find, then use what you have.

I do like using the tri-colored spiral pasta or pene with ridges, as the groves are a magnet for sauces/dressings. However, any type of pasta with ridges or nooks and crannies can be used. You could also use a thin linguine or spaghetti.

Also, the recipe contains a list of vegetables. Those are what I typically use. However, you can use any vegetable you desire. At the bottom of the recipe, I list additional vegetables you can substitute or add that would work well with this dish. Mix and match. Use what you like and can find. Just follow the prep instructions (to make bite sized) and you are all set. And you can change the ratio of pasta to vegetables to your liking – ie: more pasta or more vegetables. This recipe is about 1/2 vegetables and 1/2 pasta.

Enough Chitter Chatter – lets get on to it.

Makes 3 – 4 quarts of Salad



1 LB tri-colored pasta (Spirals, ziti with ridges)
1/4 cup Toasted/dark Sesame oil
1 TBS fresh ground Black pepper


1 small Red cabbage, outer leaves and core removed, then sliced thin and the strips cut into 1.5 inch strips
1 small head of Broccoli, florets broken down into the size of a small cherry tomato (you can use the stems for a vegetable stock)
1/3 head of Cauliflower , florets broken down into the size of a small cherry tomato (keep all the bits that fall off)
1 small Red onion, peeled and sliced thin, then cut the strips into thirds
1 handful of Snow Peas or sugar snap peas, ends trimmed and cut into 1 inch pieces
1 large Red Bell Pepper (or part of combination of red, orange, yellow, green), juillened (thinly sliced into) and then cut into 1 inch pieces
4 large Brussels sprouts, outer leaves and core removed, sliced thin, then cut into match stick sized strips.
1 cup Shredded carrots (easy short cut)


2 in piece of Ginger, peeled and finely diced
3 Garlic cloves, finely diced
1/2 cup Soy sauce
1/4 cup Mirin / cooking sake
1/4 cup Rice wine vinegar
3 TBS toasted sesame oil


  1. Prepare the dressing – add all into a glass jar or mixing bowl. Shake or whisk and let sit. Do this first so the dressing has a chance to blend.
  2. Fill a large stock pot 2/3rds of the way with water and season with about 2 TBS of salt. Bring to boil over med-high heat. then add the pasta and cook according to the pasta directions.
  3. While the water is heating and pasta cooking, start preparing the vegetables if not already done. Start with the broccoli, cauliflower and brussels sprouts first so they are ready when the pasta is done. Put the Broccoli, Cauliflower and Brussels Sprouts into a separate bowl, all others can be combined into one bowl.
  4. Once the pasta is done, Pour enough pasta water to cover the broccoli, cauliflower and brussels sprouts. Drain the rest of the pasta and spread out into a large bowl or sheet pan. Immediately pour the sesame oil over the pasta and sprinkle on the ground pepper. Toss to evenly coat. Continue to toss occasionally to release the steam and stop the cooking of the pasta.
  5. Let sit no more than 2 minutes. Then drain and run and toss under cold water and some ice cubes. This will stop the cooking process – turn them bright green (except the cauliflower). Drain. Let them sit in a strainer until in the sink or over a bowl until the pasta is cool. This will allow excess water to drain off.

Optional: Zucchini, Mushrooms, Summer Squash, Scallions, bean sprouts,  toasted sesame seeds, kale, spinach, black olives, green beans, chicken, shrimp, cashews, peanuts.  Pretty much anything you find in your fridge.  The critical steps are in cooking the pasta. Seasoning the pasta. Making the dressing. And par cooking the broccoli & cauliflower & Brussels sprouts.

Chicken Fries – All The Rage!

Chicken Fries Done Right

Chicken Fries Done Right

My son loves Burger King’s Chicken Fries.  However, they go on and off the menu like bell bottoms in the fashion world. To be fair: bell bottoms go by so many names:  boot cut, flared, yoga pants, whatever it is called now, they are still bell bottoms in my opinion.. and yes, I love the yoga pants and boot cut.  Just wish there was a length between tall and short. I am medium/average height (5′ 4″)  (. So I am either rocking floods, or tripping over my pants.😉  But this is a cooking blog, not a fashion blog.

So let us get back to Chicken Fries. Since they are my son’s favorite take out, I decided to figure out how to make them. I did some searching online and found the copy cat Burger King recipe that is all over the web. Of course I tried it.

I also tried to go all chefy on it and decided to brine my chicken first.  Well, After a couple bites all I could tasted was salt. I could not tell if it was coming from the chicken or the coating. It was soo salty I choked.

So I ate some chocolate – surely chocolate will get the salt taste out of my mouth🙂  I really wanted to figure out if it was the chicken or the coating.  Technically, brining should not cause meat to become salty, but tender and juicy.  I determined it was a combination of both and just threw the entire batch out.  I dumped the remaining brine and then put the remaining raw chicken in just plain cold water over night to rid it of extra salt.  It seemed to work, however, I figured I would just work from scratch.  I cooked up the “bad” chicken and my dog was very happy.

Off to the store for a new batch of chicken tenders and back to the drawing board.

Chicken Fries are basically a kicked up version and different cut of chicken tenders = Fried Chicken. The easiest form of chicken to cut into french fri-strips?  Chicken tenders. Remove the white tendon, and then just cut in half length-wise and voila chicken french fry shape.  You can cut again in half width-wise to make two pieces for little kids, if you wish.

Instead of putting all my eggs in one basket like I did for the copy cat recipe (Why would it not work?) I fried a few samples until I got the flavors and texture I wanted. It turned out great and my son is very happy with the results!  I have success!


1 10″ – 12″ cast iron skillet (or dutch oven for stove top)

2 baking sheets and 2 wire racks (if you don’t have them, ok)

1 package of Chicken Tenderloins (~7 – 8 per package), remove white tendon if sticking out, and cut in-half length-wise.

2 Cups seasoned bread crumbs

1/2 Pkg Extra Crispy Shake and Bake

1 cups all purpose flour (or Wonder)

2 Eggs

1 tsp cayenne

2 TBS Old Bay

1 TBS Granulated Garlic

1 TBS Granulated Onion

2 TBS Chili powder

1 TBS Paprika

Fresh ground black pepper

Kosher salt (if using table salt, reduce amount by 1/3)

a couple drops hot sauce (Franks, Tabasco, other)

1/4 cup of cream/milk (whole or 2%)

Create the below all in separate shallow containers/dishes. This will be used in stations for coating the chicken.

RUB Mixture (keeps for weeks and this makes more than you will need)

Combine Cayenne pepper, Old Bay, Granulated Garlic, Granulated Onion, Chili powder, Paprika, about a tsp of fresh ground black pepper and about 1 tsp of Kosher salt. Stir well. Put into an air proof container for unused portions.

Extra can be used on roasted chicken, fish, ground beef for tacos, shrimp, etc..

SEASONED FLOUR Mixture (you can only use once – you will have to throw extra away after dipping in raw chicken)

Combine Flour, 1 tsp salt, 1 tsp fresh ground pepper, 2 pinches of rub mixture from above.  Stir to combine.

SEASONED EGG Mixture (throw out any unused portions once you dip the raw chicken)

Whisk egg, cream, pinch of salt, pinch of black pepper and a few dashes of hot sauce (more if you like spicy, a few dashes will not make this spicy – more than a few will)

SEASONED COATING Mixture (throw out any unused portions once you dip the raw chicken)

Combine bread crumbs, Shake and Bake and 2-3 TBS of the Rub mixture. For stronger flavor, use more rub mixture.  Stir to combine for even flavoring.



I recommend using latex gloves -anytime you handle raw chicken and poultry.  You can pick up the powder free kind at any drug store in the first aid isle for cheap.  I also use them when handling hot peppers or when I cut myself and need to keep on going.  Great asset to have around the kitchen.

TV shows say use one had for dry and one for wet.  I always end up with multiple trips to the kitchen as they always get mixed up and I end up with glue all over my fingers.  I decided to try a new way today and it worked great. There is this new invention called FORKS. One for each bin. My fingers were glue free and I escaped the issue of the stuff on one hand taking off the stuff on the chicken.

At this point, you should have 4 containers:

1.) Chicken Fry Strips

2.) Seasoned Flour, with a fork

3.) Seasoned whisked egg, with a fork

4.) Seasoned Coating/breadcrumbs, with a fork

Set up on baking tray with metal rack on top (if you don’t have a rack, just skip it). Then set up your dipping order.  Raw chicken, flour, egg, coating and baking tray.  In that order.

Assembly line, with a gloved hand, remove one piece of chicken:

  1. Coat in flour mixture, turning with the fork, lift up with the fork and shake off extra, transfer to egg.
  2. Coat in Egg mixture, turning with the fork to cover all, shake off extra and transfer to the coating.
  3. Coat all sides completely in the coating mixture, using the fork to turn then place on the baking sheet.

Repeat for all pieces of chicken.  Let stand for 20 minutes.

In the mean time, in your cast iron pan (or deep fryer if you have one), bring the oil to 350 – 360 degrees (med high heat – NEVER ON HIGH HEAT). The oil in a cast iron pan or Dutch oven should reach no more than 1/2 way up the pan.  A deep frying has a built in temperature gauage.

You can purchase a Oil/Candy thermometer at any grocery store for a couple bucks. This is good to prevent burning of food, etc. Always good to have on hand.

Once you reach 350, you are ready to start frying.

Add no more than 4 – 5 pieces at a time. The reason for this as the temp of the oil will reduce too uch and you will end up with greasy and potentially under cooked soggy food.

Cook for about 2 minutes per side if using a pan/cast iron or 4 minutes for deep frying, or until golden brown.  Because this is thin cut, it does not take long at all to cook.  Keep in mind, food continues to cook once removed from the oil and will deepen in color.

Remove to a new clean baking tray with rack, or a baking tray lined with paper towels to absorb extra oil.

Let the temp of the oil come back to 350 before starting the next batch.

Before you know it – your new tray is empty because either you are eating them or your family is walking by and taking them off the “done” tray before you even get to the sauces.

Sauces are easy.  No recipe here.

Store bought BBQ Sauces, Hot Wing Sauce, Hot Sauce. I always mix and match. Take a sweet and sour and add hot sauce. Whatever your family likes.

Hope you enjoy this version of Chicken Fries you can do at home and are easy and delicious!








Be Prepared – Even the Best Cooks Need First Aid

I consider myself a pretty great cook and I am always prepared and take precautions. However, Some times the kitchen bites back.

It is very important to keep a first aid kit in the kitchen or near by,  This kit should include gauze, Neosporin +pain relief (Or equalivant), non-powdered latex gloves, band aids, buttery-fly strips.

I cut myself, reach into the oven with bare hands to pull out pans and am splattered by very hot oil on a regular basis. I survive all of this without a mark on me because I have these kits ready at my hand and know what to do. It happens.

Last weekend, I was hit by a very large splatter of 400 degree oil on my left hand.  For whatever reason, my right hand was never hit. I had 2nd degree burns on my left hand and a week later, still have a mummy hand as I keep it slathered in neosporin and wrapped in gauze, as per medical advice.

I was pan frying chicken wings. Do it all the time, They were dry, dredged in flour, no reason for unexpected major splatter, But one of those suckers broke open and juice leaked into the hot oil causing major splatter that I have not experienced before.

My left hand was covered in hot oil.  I did not even feel it at first, but when I did, I grabbed some flour, covered my hand stopped the pain and absorbed the oil.  Finished the chicken, then ran it under cold water to bring the temperature of the hand down.  I have a very high pain tolerance. Don’t try this at home.🙂

Thankfully I do have a well stocked first aid kit within 5 feet of the kitchen,

I have full functionality of my hand and it is healing well. While this is not a recipe – it is a recipe in kitchen first aid. Trust me. I have experienced it all.


Gauze pads

Neosporin (I like the one with pain relief) or other anti-bacterial ointment

Band-aids – multiple types – especially those that fit around fingers

Latex gloves – so cover the cut hand and continue cooking

First-aid tape – – to hold the gauze in place

Butter-fly band-aids – when the cut is really deep

Advil – Pain and anti-inflammatory

Chocolate – who doesn’t like chocolate?

Clean Towels you don’t care about – you will wash them but the stains don’t come out doesn’t matter

White flour within reach for absorbing oil only. Not a remedy but takes the oil off and allows the cold water to do its job.

Cute dog – there are plenty up for adoption if you don’t have one. Best next to Chocolate for pain relief and they end up cleaning up all spills in the kitchen.🙂

Be safe and cook away. It all heals,

Apple and Sage Chuttney

This is a great side I have used with Pork dishes. Most recently I used it as a base for seared foie gras and my port wine reduction sauce.  It received great reviews.  A little sweet but counter balanced with the sage and leeks to give it a more savory touch.


(makes about 2 cups)

6 sage leaves, washed and cut into strips

2 large leaks, trimmed, cut in half and then sliced into half moons.  Make sure to let sit in a large bowl of cold water (let sit 20 minutes and do it again) to remove the grit. Remove the leeks with a strainer or by hand and onto a paper towel. do NOT pour into a strainer or you will put the grit right back into the leeks.

3 apples, core removed, peeled and juillenned. I use a mix of tart and sweet apples It is your choi

1 shallot, finely minced

1 tsp of cider vinegar

1 TBS butter

1 TBS Olive Oil


1. In a large skillet, heat the butter and olive oil over medium heat until the butter stops foaming. Add in the leaks, shallots, and apples. Sautee over medium heat until the apples are soft (about 5 – 7 minutes)

2.) add in the cider vinegar. Let reduce ( about 3 minutes)

3.) Season with salt and pepper and taste.

4.) Add in the sage and saute for 1 more minute.  Taste and adjust seasoning as needed.

It is ready to serve now. It can be made a day in advance and warmed just before serving.

Butternut and Acorn Squash Soup


I love this soup in the fall and winter. To make it right, it will take some oven time for the squash. If you don’t have the time, the squash can be diced small and boiled in stock (chicken or vegetable).  Roasting any vegetable just gives it so much more flavor.

(This post has been updated since my original post in 2010)

Butternut and Acorn Squash Soup

Total Time: ~3 hours

Prep Time: 20 – 30 minutes

Roasting the Squash:

  • 1 Butternut Squash cut/split in half, seeds scooped out
  • 1 Acorn Squash cut/split in half, seeds scooped out
  • TBS white pepper (you can use black pepper if you do not have white pepper)
  • 2 tsp Dried Oregano
  • 2 tsp Dried Thyme Leaves
  • 2 tsp Salt
  • 2 TBS Olive oil (for roasting the vegetables)
  • 1/2 stick of butter, melted.

Dollop of cream topping at serving time (optional)

  • 2/3 cup sour cream or creme fraiche
  • 2 TBS cream
  • 6 – 8 leaves fresh sage (use 1/2 TBS dried if you do not have fresh)
  • 1 small garlic clove
  • 1/2 tsp white pepper (black pepper is fine if you do not have white pepper)
  • salt to taste

for topping: Blend all in blender, hand chopper. if you do not have, then dice the garlic and save as small as you can and hand mix. Taste, add more sage, salt or pepper if needed.  You could also use about 1 tsp of ground ginger if you wish. Let refrigerate at least 2 hours or over night.

Making the Soup:

  • ½ stick butter
  • 1 small sweet spanish onion, diced
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 thumb sized piece fresh ginger, peeled and rough dice
  • 1 – 2 TBS extra virgin olive oil
  • 5 sprigs fresh thyme (leave in tact for easy removal)
  • 1 tsp dried sage
  • 4 cans Chicken Stock, Veggie Stock or combination of both
  • 1 cup cream or half and half
  • adjust salt to taste

Preheat Oven to 375

  1. Roasting the Squash: Place the squash, cut side up, on a baking sheet (for easy clean up, line the baking sheet with foil). Drizzle with olive oil,  sprinkle with salt, pepper, thyme, oregano on top of each squash half, place in oven.
    1. At this stage, start the dollop of cream for the topping so it has time to set in the refrigerator during the remaining cooking time.
  2. Melt the butter on the stove top over low heat
  3. Every 20 minutes baste the squash – use the oil/butter mixture that has formed in the wells too. This will keep it from drying out during roasting.
  4. The squash can take 1 – 2 hours depending on thickness and oven performance. After 1 hour, start checking for doneness with a fork.  When you can easily slide a fork in and out (same consistency as for mashed potatoes), then they are done.
  5. When done, remove from the oven, cover with tin foil, and let cool to touch.
  6. Making the Soup:  In a cold pan, add in any remaining butter and the olive oil. Add the onions, garlic, ginger, thyme, pepper lightly saute over med-low heat. This takes about 10 minutes. You want the onions fairly clear and the ginger soft. While this is going – harvest the squash.
  7. When squash is safe to handle, remove squash pulp from skins, using a spoon, or if the skin starts to fall apart (good sign) and you aren’t afraid to get your hands dirty, just run your fingers along the skin and the pulp will just fall off. Because it is messy, kids love this “chore”. Put the pulp in a bowl until ready to use.
  8. When onions are translucent and just starting to brown, add the squash to the pan.  Stir while mashing to mix the ingredients. Let simmer for a couple of minutes while stirring to blend the flavors.
  9. Add the stock and dried sage, stir to combine until well mixed. Add more water or stock if not “soupy”. This is a thick soup, but it should still be a little runny at this stage.
  10. Let the soup simmer over low heat about 30 – 45 minutes, stirring every 5 – 10 minutes, as the pulp will settle to the bottom of the pan you want to prevent burning.
  11. Remove the Thyme sprigs and discard.
  12. Using a blender or food processor, blend the ingredients together (may need to do in batches).  The soup will still be a bit chunky at this point. To gain a smother soup, pour the soup through a fine mesh strainer or food-mill pressing down on the pulp to extract as much flavor as possible.
  13. Return the soup to a clean pot.  Add the cream, stir and continue to simmer over low heat for about 10 minutes.  Taste and add more salt, pepper or cream if needed.

Serve in a bowl with a dollop of the cream topping and perhaps a small sage or thyme leaf.  Yum.

NOTE: You should be tasting at each step and adjusting seasoning as needed.

For a kick, you can add some hot pepper, cayenne, etc..

You can also just use one type of squash and not two if you wish.

If you are like me and love toasted pumpkin seeds, then, after scooping the seeds out of the squash, harvest the seeds, rinse, place on a baking sheet, sprinkle with salt, pepper or whatever seasonings you wish, roast in the oven with the squash (yes they can go in wet) for about 10 minutes. Check after 7 and stir just to be sure they do not burn.

You can use the toasted seeds as a topping on the soup for a texture contrast, either whole or a quick grind.



Port Wine Reduction Sauce

Most of you do not know this, in October, I tried out for the Fox Channel “Master Chef” home cooks cooking competition.  While, I ultimately did not make it on the show, I did make it to second rounds in New York City mostly in part with this sauce over the foie gras I served. I served it over an apple sage chutney. That will be in another post as I am making this for my family at Christmas.

Next time I try out for a competition show I guess I need to wear a bow tie and tell a sob story, neither of which I did. Live an learn. At least it wasn’t because of my food!  They loved the food!

This sauce is great over foie gras, but any pork or meat will suffice as a great vehicle for this sauce – it would even work with dessert.

I will add a picture of the complete dish when I make this in December, but wanted to get the recipe out before Thanksgiving.



1 bottle of ruby port wine

8 cloves of garlic, crushed/smashed

1 large shallot roughly chopped

1 TBS black peppercorns, roughly ground

2 springs Thyme

2 sprigs Oregano

1 TBS Worcestershire Sauce

1 TBS Balsamic Vinegar

1 Bay Leaf

1 TBS butter



Put all (Except the butter) in a sauce pot and bring to a simmer. Let reduce by half (about 20 – 30 minutes). Put a strainer over a clean pot and strain the sauce into the clean pot.

Reduce again by half, you should have about a cup of the sauce left, and add in the butter, whisk well to finish the sauce.  Taste. This mixture should be sweet and delicious.

This keeps in the refrigerator for several days.  It is best to make the day in advance.  It tastes better the next day and total cooking time is close to 2 hours. Use a gentle simmer vs a hard boil to really bring the flavors out of the ingredients.

Creamy Lobster Bisque


This past Labor day weekend my family got together in Maine. Our main Labor day weekend dinner was – Yup – Lobster! We went through over 25 lobsters. Imagine my delight at the thought of Lobster bisque on the horizon. We cleaned the shells (some of those little legs still had some meat which also helps flavor the broth), in cleaning, we remove the “rib” cage, roe, etc. Head, and all shells are rinsed and used. I NEVER throw out the shells and always take them home to make a very flavorful broth that can be frozen and used later.

Some chefs grind the shells (same with shrimp bisque), I don’t, I just break them apart and use them whole. My version of creating the broth (same recipe can be used for Shrimp Bisque) works great and really extracts the lobster flavor.

I was lucky that I had so many shells as I made gallons of broth and will make over 20 quarts of bisque. However, for 4 quarts of bisque, you really only need shells from about 4 – 5 lobsters. And if you are in part of the country where you do not have access to summer lobster (where the price is low), then by all means use store bought lobster broth. Whole Foods, Fairway and large supermarkets are now carrying it.

I served this soup along with my clam chowder at a work “Soup Lunch” fundraising event in Nov 2014 with about 15 – 20 different soups. Both went fast, down to the last drop. They were well liked. There were other soups there I am seeking recipes for – so don’t be surprised if you see more soup recipes soon.

Yield: 4 – 5 quarts of soup

Making the broth

1.5 TBS Olive Oil
3 ribs of Celery with leaves, roughly chopped
2 large Carrots, roughly chopped
1 med Onion, quartered
2 sprigs fresh Thyme, Oregano
1 handful Parsley
2 Bay leaves
Shells of 4 – 5 lobsters, cleaned
3 large cloves garlic, smashed
water – LOTS

**Note – Salt is left off intentionally. Salt will be added when used in the final soup. Adding salt now could render the final product too salty.

1.) In a large stock pot (8 quarts), heat the oil over medium-high heat for 1 minute
2.) Add in the celery, carrots, onion, herbs, bay leaves and garlic. Let sauté for about 5 minutes, stirring each minute.
3.) Add in the shells and continue sautéing for about 10 minutes, stirring frequently to avoid burning, browning is OK. this process starts to release the flavors of the ingredients.
4.) Once the aroma in the kitchen starts to make you hungry, it is time to add the water (approx 5 quarts). Add enough water (warm or hot), to cover all ingredients and then exceed by 2 – 3 inches (does not have to be exact, just all ingredients need to be covered).
5.) Bring to a light boil, then reduce the heat to med-low and let simmer for 3-4 hours or until a 1/3 of the water has evaporated. Stir occasionally.
6.) After the liquid has reduced by 1/3, place a fine mesh (small holes) strainer over a large bowl or another large stock pot, and strain the liquid into the clean bowl/pot. Discard all of the solids. KEEP the liquid.
7.) Return the liquid to med heat and reduce again by 1/3 (about 1 hour) (taste – if too watery, then continue to reduce checking every 15 minutes). You should end up with 6 – 8 cups of broth. The most important part is that you have at least 6 cups of broth and it has loads of flavor.

If using the same day, keep warm over low heat while you make the bisque. If freezing for later, let cool, then place in zip lock freezer bags, releasing as much air as possible. This will keep in the freezer for at least 6 months.

Making The Bisque

2 TBS Olive Oil
2 Shallots, chopped
3 cloves garlic, chopped
3 -4 sprigs of fresh Thyme and oregano (keep on stems for easy removal later)
1/2 can Tomato paste
2 cups dry Sherry (cooking sherry works just fine – one bottle)
1 can 14.5 oz Diced tomatoes
1 can 14.5 oz Tomato Sauce
1 quart Heavy Cream
1 quart Light Cream

Salt and pepper to taste

1.) In a clean large stock pot (about 8 Qts) over med heat, add the oil, shallots, garlic, a few grinds of pepper, thyme and oregano. Saute until they become translucent ( about 5 minutes). You want to sweat (putting in the items with cold oil over med heat to release liquids) these, NOT brown them.
2.) Next add in the tomato paste, increase the temp to med-high. Stir every few minutes to prevent sticking and burning. It is ok to lightly brown the tomato paste at this point. Just keep stirring. This process takes about 5-7 minutes.
3.) Deglaze the pan using the sherry, stir well, and let simmer for another 5 – 7 minutes until the liquid reduces by 1/3 to 1/2.
4.) Add in the tomatoes, stir and continue to simmer for about 15 minutes. Stir every few minutes. Taste to check flavors.
5.) Fish out the stems from the herbs and discard.
6.) Puree the mixture. You can strain at this point to remove any pulp from the tomatoes, or leave them in. I usually do not strain if I pureed long enough. That is your call.
7.) Add the tomato mixture back to the pot and add in the lobster stock. Stir and simmer another 10 – 15 minutes. Taste and add salt if needed.
8.) Next add in all of the cream. Stir well and let simmer approx another 10 minutes, stirring often so the cream does not burn on the bottom of the pan. Taste, adjust with salt/pepper as needed. The liquid will reduce and thicken as it simmers. Continue to taste adjust with salt, perhaps a splash of Sherry as needed.

That is it – Enjoy with a nice piece of Italian/French bread, diced lobster meat (if you have some) and you can even garnish with a few pinches of Parmesan.

Bacon Covered MeatLoaf and Homemade BBQ Sauce


I don’t know why when everyone is hitting the grill, I am inside making meatloaf. It is something that has been mentioned in a few different settings and I got a bug to come up with a delicious meatloaf. I have made meatloaf before, but never thrilled with the outcome, until NOW. Since I am happy with the results, I thought I would share this recipe.

This was pretty easy to make and put together, but give yourself about an hour or so from start to finish. Most of it is cooking time with a little prep time.

Take advantage of the shortcuts most supermarkets have available, such is pre-diced onions, peeled garlic, home style mash potatoes, etc.



1/2 package bacon, strips cut in half width-wise
2 LB Ground beef (85 – 90% lean)
1/2+ LB of ground pork (or 1 LB of meatball mix)
3-4 links raw sweet Italian sausage (pork, turkey or chicken)
1 small package portabella mushrooms, cleaned and finely diced
1 small onion, finely diced (about 1 cup)
5+ cloves garlic, minced
1 TBS Butter
1 TBS olive oil
1 cup bread crumbs
1/2 cup milk (more if needed)
1/2 grated parmesan cheese
3/4 cup shredded Italian blend cheese
1/2 ball of fresh mozzarella, diced (about 1/2 cup – or you can use goat cheese or feta)
3 TBS Worcestershire sauce
2 TBS yellow mustard (can use Dijon)
3 TBS Ketchup
1/4 cup Teriyaki sauce
salt and pepper

BBQ Sauce:

1 TBS raw or brown sugar
1/4 cup cider vinegar, plus more for taste
3 TBS Worcestershire sauce
8 oz plain tomato sauce
1/2 cup ketchup
3 whole strips bacon
i sm onion, finely diced
fresh ground black pepper


Making the MeatLoaf

Preheat oven to 380 degrees F.

1.) In a small bowl, combine the milk and the bread crumbs and stir. Let sit to allow the bread crumbs to soak up the milk. Add more milk if necessary. You do not want it runny, just enough to make the bread crumbs mushy.
2.) In a large skillet, heat the oil and butter until just hot.
3.) Add in the mushrooms, onions and let sauté for about 3 minutes over med-high heat. Stir a couple of times.
4.) Add in the garlic, season with salt and pepper. Continue to sauté for another 5 minutes stirring often, or until the mixture just starts to caramelize.
5.) Put it aside off the heat. to slightly cool.
6.) In a large mixing bowl, add in the ground beef, ground pork, break apart the sausage links, grated parmesan cheese, shredded cheese, diced mozzarella, Worcestershire sauce, mustard, ketchup, teriyaki sauce, egg, pepper and a pinch of salt (careful not to over salt and many of the other ingredients already contain salt). Then add in the slightly cooled mushroom mixture and Mix well to combine all ingredients.
7.) Make a small patty of the mixture. Flatten, and place on a microwave plate, then microwave for 30 seconds on power 7. Check, and if still raw in the middle, put it back in for 20- 25 seconds. This is how you check your seasonings. When cooked through, taste the patty. If you like it – you are good to go and form the meatloaf in the meatloaf pan. If you don’t – this is the only time you can adjust the seasoning before cooking.
8.) In a meatloaf pan, shape the meat mixture in the pan, it is ok for it to be slightly higher than the pan.
9.) Lay the bacon halves across the top of the meatloaf, be sure to tuck the ends of the bacon in between the pan and the meatloaf. This will help to prevent the bacon from dripping over into your oven. You can also place the meatloaf pan on a sheet pan to catch any drips.
10.) Let bake for about 35-40 minutes, or until the bacon is almost cooked through. While this is cooking, make the sauce.
11.) Pull out the pan, and brush with the sauce mixture, increase the oven to 420. Continue to cook another 10 – 15 minutes, or until a meat thermometer reads 160 when inserting into the middle of the loaf.
12.) When done, remove from the oven and let rest for 7 – 10 minutes before serving.

Making the Sauce

1.) Using the same pan you sautéed the mushrooms and onions, over med-heat, cook the 3 strips of bacon until almost done. Remove the bacon.
2.) Add the onions to the sauté pan. Sauté the onions for about 2 minutes. Chop up the bacon and return to the pan.
3.) Add in the cider vinegar to deglaze the pan, then add in the sugar, tomato sauce, ketchup, Worcestershire sauce and ground pepper. Let simmer while the meatloaf is cooking, stirring often to prevent burning and sticking.
4.) After about 15 minutes, taste the sauce and adjust flavor as needed.
5.) It is done when it is the consistency of BBQ sauce. Set aside until ready to use.


When ready to serve, serve with mashed potatoes and extra BBQ sauce on the side. I took a short cut as I purchased home style ready to heat and eat mash potatoes. I re-heat them on the stove top, and added butter, salt and pepper. you can also add in shredded cheese, sour cream, fresh herbs, chives, bacon or whatever you are in the mood for. It is a nice time saver and my son eats them all up.

Of course, you could make them from scratch, as you do have the time while the meatloaf is cooking. Up to you.

I do hope you enjoy this recipe and use it as a base to elaborate or experiment with other ingredients, such as using leeks instead of onions, fresh bread instead of bread crumbs, adding chopped spinach, sautéed bell peppers and/or carrots, fresh herbs, etc..

Meat loaf can be anything you have on hand or experimenting with more exotic ingredients.

With my craving met, I will be at the grill the rest of the weekend!

Happy 4th of July!

Roasted Radish and Cauliflower Vegetable Soup


Roasted Radish and Cauliflower Soup

I saw in a magazine that if you roast or sauté radishes they lose their bitterness. I never use radishes much because I am not a huge fan and I figured they are only really used in salads and served raw.  So of course with this new information, I had to give it a try to see what happened. Well to my surprise, a nice tasty soup same about, a cross over of winter to spring due to the abundance of fresh herbs.

Similar looking to the Spring Pea soup I posted a few weeks ago, but a little more hearty as I don’t strain and I preferred this one that way. It so happens my son chose this over the pea soup, so I think I have a winner and look at all the veggies he just ate!

To boot – it is vegetarian – I do use cream, but that can be replaced with silken tofu to make it vegan.

I enjoyed it and hope you enjoy a new way to use radishes. Instead of making a soup, you can always just use this as a vegetable side dish. The vegetables I have listed are just a few possibilities, such as asparagus, broccoli, carrots, bell peppers, or even hot peppers to give a good zing.


Makes about 6 cups of soup

2 med potatoes (I used russet, but Yukon Gold will work as well), peeled and cubed
1/3 of a head of cauliflower, broken up into bite sized pieces
15 – 20 radishes, washed and tip and root trimmed, then quartered
2 sprigs of thyme, thyme removed from stem
1 sprig of oregano, oregano removed from stem
1 small onion, rough dice
1 leek, white and green parts only, sliced in half lengthwise then sliced into 1/2 moons
2 TBS butter
1 TBS Olive Oil
salt and pepper
14 oz can vegetable broth, low sodium/fat
1 cup 2% milk
1/2 light cream
1/4 cup sour cream
2 large handfuls of fresh baby spinach, rough chopped
1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese (OPTIONAL)
Chopped parsley for garnish if desired


Preheat oven to 400 degrees

1.) In a large roasting pan (9×13), put in the potatoes, cauliflower, radishes, leek, onion, thyme, oregano and toss with olive oil, salt and pepper. Then break or cut up the butter into a small dice and dot all over the top.

2.) Roast the vegetables for about 25 minutes or the tops are just starting to brown. Add in the vegetable broth (only use 1/2 of the broth if making as a side dish). Toss and put back into oven.

3.) After another 20 – 25 minutes, when the potatoes are almost done, but not quite, pull the pan from the oven and transfer the mix to a large sauce pan. If making this as just a side dish, keep them in the oven until done and serve in a serving dish. You will want to check for salt/pepper.

4.) Add in the milk, cream and spinach and simmer over med / med-low heat until the potatoes and all vegetables are cooked all the way through.

5.) Transfer to a blender (you may have to do in batches), and puree the soup. Pour the pureed soup back into the sauce pan and taste. If it is too thick, add more milk or vegetable broth.

6.) Add in the sour cream and parmesan (if using), let simmer a couple of minutes longer, stir, taste and adjust for salt/pepper.

There you have it. I think the flavors come out best when it is warm, not piping hot. Let it cool before serving. Top with chopped parsley or raw radishes for a crunchy texture.

Easy Herb Roasted Chicken

Herb and Butter Roasted Chicken

Herb and Butter Roasted Chicken


This is a very simple recipe for cooking chicken, delicious right out of the oven, or the next day for salads, sandwiches, chicken pot pie, etc.

It does take about 2 – 2.5 hours to cook a 5 – 7 LB chicken. (about 20-25 minutes per pound). I love crispy chicken skin, to achieve this, I use the high heat method. This requires pre-heating the oven to about 450 degrees, cooking the chicken for about 15 minutes, than lowering the temperature to 350/375 to finish off the cooking.

If you don’t have 2 – 2.5 hours to cook a whole chicken, you can buy bone-in and skin-on chicken pieces (or carve up the chicken yourself). Your cooking method is basically the same, just reducing the time to about 45 – 60 minutes. Keeping the bone in and skin-on results in the best flavor and juiciest chicken. Still very delicious!


Serves about 4 – 6 people

1` 5 – 7 LB whole roaster chicken (or chicken parts with bone-in and skin-on)
1 stick unsalted butter, softened at room temperature or a quick shot in the microwave
1.5 TBS dried herb blend (like Italian, Herbes de Provence) Or you can use fresh herbs of your choice
Juice of 1 lime   *(The lemon and lime give a nice bright tang to the flavor – they can be omitted if needed)
Juice of 1/2 lemon
4 cloves garlic, thinly sliced or finely chopped
1.5 TBS kosher Salt
1.5 TBS pepper

If you wish to make a gravy/sauce, then you will need the below ingredients:

1 14 oz (approx. 2 cups) can low sodium/fat chicken broth
4 cloves garlic, smashed
2 carrots, rough chopped (about 2/3 cup)
2 stalks celery, rough chopped (about 1/2 cup)
1 small onion, rough chopped
1 med sized Yukon gold potato, washed and cubed (any potato will do, but Yukon Gold potatoes have a thinner skin)
2 TBS flour for a slurry if needed to thicken sauce


PREHEAT oven to 450 degrees

  1. Place a wired rack in a roasting pan with about 2 – 3 inch sides.
  2. Add the chopped carrots, celery, garlic, potato and onion to the bottom of the roasting pan and scatter over the bottom of the pan.
  3. Remove chicken from packaging, remove any gizzards or parts from inside the chicken cavity. Rinse chicken under cold water, be sure to rinse inside the front and rear cavity. Pat dry with a paper towel.
  4. Place the chicken on the wire rack until ready to season.
  5. In a bowl or food processor, place the butter, salt, pepper, herbs, garlic, lemon and lime juice and mix well.
  6. Using bare hands, or latex gloves, smear the butter mixture in side the cavity of the chicken, use your fingers to loosen the skin on the chicken breast, and stuff more butter under the skin. Then use any remaining butter mixture to smear all over the outside of the chicken, front and back.
  7. Remove your gloves and/or wash your hands throughly with hot soapy water to prevent cross contamination of the raw chicken.
  8. This step can be skipped, however, keeps the juices in a bit. Truss the chicken – I usually just tie together the legs with butchers twine to keep them in. If you do not tie them, not a big deal. However, if you chose to stuff the chicken, you should truss the chicken.
  9. Pop the chicken into the oven for about 15 – 20 minutes at 450. After the 15/20 minutes, reduce the temperature to 350 degrees.
  10. After a total of 30 minutes has passed, open the oven door and baste the chicken with the juices on the bottom of the pan. Continue to baste every 15/20 minutes. If the bottom of the pan is dry, add in the chicken stock.
  11. The chicken stock should be added after about 1.5 hours of total cooking time. This gives the stock a chance to mix and get flavored with the vegetables and juices from the chicken. This will be the base for your sauce. If you are using chicken parts and they are directly on the bottom of the pan, hold off on adding the chicken stock until after the chicken is done.
  12. When you notice the chicken is nice, brown and getting crispy, time to check the temperature of the chicken. For a whole chicken this is typically after 1.5 – 2 hours of cooking time. You will need to insert a meat thermometer between the thigh and the chicken. The temp should read about 160 degrees, if not, it needs more cooking and give it another 15 – 20 minutes then check again. If it is at or exceeds 160 – pull it out of the oven. Chicken is fully cooked at 165. Since the chicken will continue to cook after taking it out of the oven, it is save to pull it out when the temp reads between 160 – 165.
  13. Lift the chicken and tilt to let any juices in the cavity to stay in the pan. Move the chicken to a cutting board and tent it with a sheet of aluminum foil and let sit for 10 minutes. This will let the chicken finish cooking and the juices redistribute.
  14. in the mean time, make the sauce: Pour the contents from the bottom of the pan into a stove top safe pot. Bring to a simmer for a few minutes. If you can, puree the mixture with the vegetable bits as this adds good flavor and improves consistency. If not, strain the sauce and return it back to the sauce pan.
  15. Taste and adjust seasoning if needed. If it is too salty, you can adjust by adding cream/or sour cream depending on your taste goal.
  16. If you like the flavor, but it is too thin, then make a slurry and add to the simmering sauce. A slurry is made by putting 1 – 2 TBS of flour into a covered jar and add 1/4 – 1/2 cup of cold water. shake vigorously to remove lumps. Slowly, in a stead stream, and while whisking, add 1/2 of the mixture to the sauce. Continue whisking and let it simmer for a few minutes. If still too thin, add more of the slurry. If good – leave it be.

Carve the chicken, or plate the chicken pieces and you are now ready to eat. This is great with any roasted vegetables and/or potatoes.

Save the bones for a great CHICKEN STOCK, just add the bones to a deep sauce pan, toss in roughly chopped onions, celery, carrots, garlic, a mix of Italian herb mix or any other veggies/herbs. Sautee for about 7 – 10 minutes, then add enough water to cover the contents with an extra 3 inches higher. Simmer 3 – 4 hours. Strain and reduce if needed to strengthen the flavor.

I often use the left over chicken and sauce for a base in CHICKEN POT PIE. This is simple weekday dinner finished in about an hour.

Pre-heat oven to 375 degrees

  1. Cut up any chicken left over into bite sized pieces.
  2. Add the sauce to a pan with a small bag of frozen peas/carrots (or use fresh), diced fresh onions and finely diced potatoes. If too thick, you can add water and/or more stock (chicken or vegetable).
  3. Let simmer until the potatoes are just cooked through. Then add the chicken back in and turn off the heat.
  4. While the dish is cooking, prepare a baking pan using either puff pastry or fillo dough.
  5. If using puff pastry – line the bottom first, poke holes with a fork and bake for 15 minutes to set the puff pastry and keep it from getting soggy when you add in the filling. After you add the filling, top off with another layer of puff pastry.
  6. For Fillo dough, line the bottom with about 6 layers, basing with butter in between, be sure to have the dough go up the sides of the pan, then add the filling and top off with about 6 more layers of fillo dough. You don’t need to pre-bake.
  7. When assembled, bake for about 45 minutes, or until the top is browned and the filling hot.

My son loves this. I mix up the veggies I use and cut up the ones he doesn’t normally eat small enough it is easier for him to eat them vs trying to dig them out.🙂

Spring Pea Herb Soup


Spring Mint Pea Soup

Spring is finally upon us (lets hope), and a beautiful bright green soup with fresh herbs is very appealing and delicious! finally being able to open the doors and windows and let in the fresh air prompted me to play with this recipe.

I used chicken stock for this preparation, however, vegetable broth can be used in place to make this a vegetarian soup. Silky tofu can be used in place of the cream to make this a vegan creamy soup. The herbs and vegetables in this dish make it delicious and if wanted, the cream cane be left out as well. I just like the creamy version so that is what I make.


Makes about 4 cups of soup.

1 can chicken or vegetable broth (low/no sodium/fat)
9 oz sweet peas (fresh or frozen)
2 Sprigs each of Basil, Thyme, Oregano, Cilantro, Parsley (you can keep it simple to just thyme or mix and match your own favorite fresh herbs)
2 Sprigs fresh mint
3 – 4 cloves of garlic, peeled and smashed
1 leek, white and light green parts only, cut in half lengthwise, then sliced into 1/2 moons. Soak in cold water to allow the sand to sink to the bottom. Do this twice, but remember to lift the leeks out before dumping the water, or else you end up with sandy leeks again.
1 cup Heavy cream (can use 2% milk or light cream if desired)
1/2 cup sour cream (can use light sour cream)
salt and pepper
1/4 cup grated parmesan, if desired to finish with a richer flavor


1.) In a 4 – 6 quart sauce pan over med-high heat, add the broth, peas, fresh herbs (with the exception of the mint), garlic and leeks. If the herbs are attached to a hard stem, then remove the herbs from the stem. For basil and parsley, you can leave them attached as they will soften enough to blend with the soup.

2.) Bring the broth to a simmer, and let simmer for about 3 minutes. Then remove from the heat, cover and let steep for another 15 minutes.

3.) Remove any hard stems from the broth. Place the mixture into a blender, add in the heavy cream, sour cream and fresh mint. Puree until as smooth as possible. If you do not like the consistency of the pureed soup, strain the soup through a fine mesh strainer, pressing with a spoon to remove as much as the liquid as possible. Discard the remaining mush.


Blend the Pea Soup

4.) Return the soup back into the pan over med heat, taste, season with salt and pepper. You may add the parmesan at this point. continue simmering/stirring until the soup reaches the desired thickness (about 7 – 10 minutes), taste along the way and adjust seasoning as you prefer.

5.) Serve with finely chopped parsley, or mint/parsley combination.

Enjoy the fresh taste of spring!

The BEST GARLIC BREAD without reaching for the mints after!

Isn’t all bread smeared with a mixture of garlic and butter the best ever? Well, you would think so. However, I used to think I made great garlic bread (and I did, until now), but I had an unusual request from a friend (ahh – unusual for me) to 1) not put any cheese on it and 2) tone down the garlic.

WHAT???? No cheese, I could not even say – Ttttttttone down the garlic. Took me a little while to comprehend what I was being asked – it is GARLIC bread. But I like a challenge. I thought, there are many different ways to “cook” garlic bread. I not only took the challenge to find a way to “tone” down garlic, but also what was the best way to heat it.

Off to the internet. As many ways as one can use garlic there are recipes and techniques for making garlic bread. Whoooo HOO, I found a great way to spend a rainy Saturday afternoon, listening to the thunder and lighting storms in the middle of January before heading off to my friends house with what I hopped to be “The Best Garlic Bread Ever”.

I do get a little lengthy here, but just in an effort to give you the benefit of my fun knowledge gained in creating this recipe. You are more than welcome to skip right down to the end of this post and get to it. But if you are up for a little chatter, then by all means read on.

What type of bread?

French loaf? Italian? Skinny or fat? Hmmm does it make a difference? YES IT DOES! Splurge the extra $$ (and when it comes to bread, not a big hit in the wallet) cents to get an artisan crafted loaf either from your mega super market, or favorite bakery store around the corner.

I tried two types of bread – as I automatically ruled out others as I was looking for soft light interior yet a nice crusty exterior.

I chose the typical french Baguette and then a shorter baguette that was twice the width. Italian bread has too soft of an exterior, so hence the French won out. AND the shorter baguette with the wider width also won out – but the typical skinny one will do in a pinch. I happen to be lucky and live in a land of many fine and expensive stores so I was able to get what I wanted at about $1.40 a loaf and the bread was excellent and tasty in its own right.

I went to the cash register with the entire bin of bread as I was cooking for a large party and then I needed some for my experiments.. and boy or boy what a great excuse to eat bread and butter all day!


This was a little easier – salted or unsalted. Store brand or name brand?

I was trying to impress. If I was at my standard supermarket down the street I would have splurged for a name brand. However, I was at the expensive speciality store, so I did go with their brand as their store brand is pretty much as good or better than what I could chose at my super market. But rule of thumb, go with what you can afford.

The question of salted or unsalted was the easiest decision I could make all day. UNSALTED. I always cook with unsalted, as then I can control the salt of the final dish. I find cooking with salted butter, my dishes come out salty as it is easy to forget to compensate for the salt already in the butter.


Am I going to use herbs? I thought about it and decided yes, I would use minimal herbs so as not to take away from the main ingredients – Bread, Butter and GARLIC.

Fresh or Dried? This is a personal preference. Fresh herbs are best used in a manner they can somewhat stay fresh. Because I was going to “tone” down the garlic, that requires heat. Heat kills fresh herbs so I decided to go with what most people have in their house – dried. I already knew I as going to use the standard Italian blend. Basil, Oregano and Parsley.

Some people don’t believe in oregano belongs with butter, but in this circumstance the the little amount we use, it is fine. It is also fine to omit – just increase the other two. If all you have is an Italian blend, by all means use that.

If you have fresh herbs and want to use them up, by all means do, just hold off mixing them in until just before spreading the butter on the bread.


This is actually an easy and obvious one. FRESH garlic. Not the head of garlic that has been sitting in your fridge or on the counter for over a week or longer. I have those to, so no judgement here.

Fresh garlic you buy the day of or day or two before. It is OK to use pre-peeled garlic, as long as you can inspect them through the container to ensure they are fresh – not starting to turn opaque. If you open it up and there is a sour smell – don’t use them.
I often use pre-peeled when I am making any dish or dishes requiring large amounts of garlic. However, if you are making one loaf, then get the fresh head. It takes no time at all to peel one head. Separate the cloves, smash them with the flat side of a sturdy knife, or small pot. The skin comes right off, and to boot, makes it easier to chop.


To cheese or not to cheese. I am out on this. They way I made it for my friend, I did not miss the cheese. However, adding a little grated parmesan cheese to the butter mix is tasty (just be aware it does add salt). I would for-go melting mozzarella on the bread as it overwhelms all of your hard work and then takes center sage. You want the hot, steamy, bread with the garlic buttered melted, saturating the nooks and crannies with bits of fresh garlic and the butter dripping down your face to be the star of your creation – not melted the melted cheese.

What’s left? – oh yea “Cooking”

I tried many different methods:

1.) Toasting the bread open faced then spreading on the butter. – Great for breakfast, but not the garlic bread I dream of.

2.) Spreading on the butter and toasting in the oven open faced – If you eat it right away, ok, but the butter loses its punch. And if you wait any length of time, you might as well be trying to bite through a brick.

3.) Starting out open faced, then closing 1/2 way through – this had more staying power than the previous one, and closer to what I was looking for, but, again, an hour or so later, it was difficult to eat.

The point of having the nice soft center is that you can eat it right away, later or even the next day. none of the above fit that at all.

4.) The old standard of wrapping in aluminum foil and then venting for the last few minutes of cooking. This was pretty darn close, however, I found that the bottom half of the bread was great and dripping with butter, however, the top half (the thicker half) only had part of the bread saturated. OK if you don’t want a lot of butter, but bad because the non-buttered bread neutralized the buttered bread. Now what.

Rotissarie. That would be great. But I only took the concept part way there.

FINALLY found the right way to cook the bread and have both sides be happy and me as the eater was finally way satisfied.

5.) Wrap the bread in aluminum foil, place it top side down (on a baking sheet to catch any butter leakage). Then after about 10 – 15 minute, turn it over and open the seal on the foil and finish it off for about another 5 or so minutes.

That worked BEAUTIFULLY! Both top and bottom had the right amount of butter and garlic ratio to bread, YEA! Good thing as I was getting really full. In a happy way, but full none the less and I still had a party to attend. Guess I was wearing the “flowy” outfit and not the snug jeans and cute top. The sacrifices we make for friends.😉

it is finally that time to get to the recipe!


Makes 1 loaf, that is approx 2.5 – 3 inches wide and about 1.5 feet long.

1 loaf of crusty on the outside, soft on the inside french or country bread, plus a couple small rolls to be used for tasting.
1.5 sticks unsalted butter (room temp is best, but no biggie if just coming out of the fridge)
1 TBS Extra Virgin Olive Oil
8 cloves of garlic, minced (MORE IF YOU WANT MORE GARLIC)
1 pinch dried Parsley, crush it between your fingers to release the flavor
1 pinch dried Basil, crush it between your fingers to release the flavor
1 pinch dried Oregeno, crush it between your fingers to release the flavor (optional)
1 tsp kosher salt
1 tsp Lemon Juice (yes you heard me, lemon juice – believe it or not it brightens up the flavors and brings them out without tasting the lemon)
3 TBS Grated Parmesan (optional – omit the salt if using)


*** Note if you do NOT want to tone down the garlic, I fully understand. Use room temperature butter, but all ingredients in a food processor (increase the number of garlic cloves if desired) and pulse until all is mixed together. Skip to step 8.

1.) Place the butter and oil in a sauce pan over low heat.
2.) When the butter is 1/2 way melted, add in the herbs and garlic.
3.) Mash/Stir all together until combined and almost all melted. The mixture should be fairly warm, but not simmering or hot.
4.) Remove from the heat, add in a pinch or two of salt (remember if adding the cheese, hold back on the salt until the end). Stir and take some of that extra bread you have and dip it in to taste. Adjust salt, garlic, herbs as needed
5.) Let sit until the mixture begins to solidify again, stir occasionally to evenly distribute the ingredients. This takes about 20 – 30 minutes.
6.) When the mixture is firming up, but you can still easily stir it, add in the lemon juice and cheese if using. Stir well. Take some more of that spare bread and taste again. Adjust for salt and seasoning now. If you want a little more tang, add another drop or two of lemon juice.
7.) let it sit another 10 minutes.


8.) Preheat oven to 375

9.) Slice the loaf of bread ALMOST in half length-wise. You still want it to stay attached, but be able to open it enough to spread on the butter mixture.
10.) Spread the butter mixture evenly on both insides of the bread evenly. Get that butter all the way to the edge and fill in all the nooks and crannies.


11.) Close the bread sides together.
12.) Taking your bread knife, slice the bread almost all of the way through into 1.5 inch pieces ( you still want the loaf to stay attached – easier to move around).


13.) Wrap in tinfoil, forming a seal at the top and closing the ends.

14.) Place TOP SIDE down on a baking sheet. Bake for 10 – 15 minutes until hot.
15.) No longer than 15 minutes later, turn the loaf over, open the top seal (careful as butter probably leaked out and will BURN your fingers, use tongs), then place back in the oven for another 5 – 7 minutes.

Remove from the oven, give it a minute before handling, then remove the loaf (use a large plastic spatial) from the tin foil to a cutting board. Finish cutting through the pieces, put on a serving tray and watch them disappear!

They will be hot. They can wait about 10 minutes or so after removing from the oven before serving. Actually – they will still be good 20, 60, 300+ minutes and into the morning. Trust me. These have staying power – not just from the garlic,🙂

Have fun and let me know if you come up with any variations or suggestions for improvement.


House Vinigrette Simple and Delicious

I went to a family friend’s house for Christmas dinner this year. Everything was excellent, but what stood out for me was the salad dressing. It is the dressing that is light and yummy and I could eat salad all night just to have that dressing. I asked the hostess what brand is it. She said I make it, then she said “Do you have a good memory?” I don’t but for ingredients – if I get the ingredients I can figure out the amounts so I said SURE. She gave me the recipe in 3 seconds flat. And true to form, I remembered the ingredients only 4. Whew!

The very next day – I went to duplicate it. But me being me, dressing has to have garlic and/or shallots. I happened to have both.. so I went to it. I somewhat remembered the ratio of oils, so I pulled out the ingredients and within 10 minutes I had a delicious version of the dressing.. Not exact, as I added a few things, but so good that when I served it to my guests, that is the recipe they asked for. Not the dishes that took me 2 days to make, the one that took me 5 minutes. But I was still excited as I had success!

I call it a house vinaigrette as it is something you could easily find as the house dressing in any Italian restaurant. However, I am not calling it Italian, and when you get to the list of ingredients, you will understand why.

I love it best on a simple salad – mixed baby greens with sliced cherry tomatoes. Or even for dipping that pizza crust that no one likes to finish – at least I don’t, until I found this dressing to dip it in.🙂

You can serve it over any salad you like or whatever else you find for dipping.



(Makes just over a cup)
1 small shallot, peeled and quartered
2 med garlic cloves
1 TBS PLUS 1 tsp Dijon mustard
3/8 cup canola oil (or peanut, or vegetable oil)
1/8 cup PLUS 1 TBS Extra Virgin Olive Oil
3/8 cup Rice Vinegar (this is why its not Italian – however, if you don’t have or can’t find, use white distilled or cider vinegar with 2 pinches of sugar)
1/2 tsp Kosher Salt
1 tsp Fresh Ground Pepper


The is where it gets difficult.  HA!

Put ALL into a blender, Bullet, Food processor, or whatever you have that chops things up, and blend on high for about 45 seconds.

Taste and adjust seasoning (Dijon, salt, pepper, vinegar) as needed.

Believe it or not – That is IT!

You can serve it right away – but it tastes way better if you let it go over night at room temp. If you put in the fridge over night the oil will solidify and the flavors don’t really meld.

However, if you have left overs, keep in the fridge for about 2 weeks. Bring to room temp about 30 – 45 minutes before serving to allow the dressing to liquify again. Shake and you are ready to serve.

I hope you enjoy this dressing as much as everyone who has had before and after me.

Happy New Year!

Brandon’s Delicious Burger (sliders) and Fries

Brandon’s Best Burger

I keep individual hamburgers in the freezer for when my teenage son gets hungry, which can be anytime of day. He can pull them out of the freezer and have them ready in no time. He does this regularly, and I try to keep hamburger buns around. One day, I ran out of buns ( happens), and he still made the burger and decided to experiment. He came up with a great seasoning and sauce. When his birthday rolled around, I decided to mix his ingredients (and a couple of others) in fresh hamburger meat so it is seasoned from the inside out!

I have to tell you, it was the juiciest, best tasting burger yet. You do not need any other condiments, but my son always likes raw onions and ketchup. I spiced up his ketchup and made him homemade fries. They were a BIG hit!

These can be made into regular sized burgers or sliders for that game day party.  They will disappear in no time.

BURGERS & Some Spicy Ketchup


Makes 6 quarter pounders (or about 10 – 12 sliders) – I made them slightly larger, so only had 5.

Burger Ingredients:

2 LB Ground Sirloin

1 TBS Steak Seasoning (found in the spice aisle of most supermarkets)

1 TBS Dijon mustard

3 TBS Worcestershire sauce

1.5 TBS ground black pepper (there are now seasoned peppers in the spice aisle – I used smoked pepper and Worcestershire flavored peppers)

1 TBS Garlic powder

1 tsp salt

2 TBS unsalted butter, softened at room temp – YES I SAID BUTTER, it adds fat to the lean sirloin meat – you can use Olive Oil or bacon fat instead if you prefer.

Spicy Ketchup:

1 cup Ketchup

1 TBS Worcestershire sauce

2 – 4 TBS your favorite HOT sauce (use as much as you can handle)


4 – 6 slices of your favorite cheese (if you wish) A sharp cheddar, sharp provolone or smoked gouda are good choices. You can even stuff it with a good blue cheese.

1 pkg of your favorite hamburger buns

1/2 white onion, sliced into 1/2 moons

Don’t forget the pickle chips

– Remove the ground meat from the fridge about 30 minutes before mixing.

– Preheat your oven to 375

  1. Using a butter flavored spray, spray the insides of the buns. Lay them flat on a cooking sheet (or place them on the grill). Bake for about 5 minutes or until they are nicely browned.
  2. Put the ketchup ingredients in a bowl and whisk/stir to mix. Put aside.
  3. Mix by hand ALL the BURGER ingredients in a large bowl to combine. Don’t over mix, just make sure everything is distributed.
  4. Taste. No, you don’t have to eat raw meat. Take about a 1/2 TBS of the mixture, flatten it, and nuke it for about 35 seconds. Then taste. Adjust any seasoning if needed, add salt, or whatever. I use this method to taste for meatballs as well. But, If you like raw – have at it.
  5. Make your patties about 3 inches in diameter and 1/2 inch thick. You should get about 5 – 6.
  6. Get your pan or grill very hot.
  7. Put the burgers in the pan/grill, poke a shallow indent in the center of the top (trick to have a flat burger, not a round one so everything slides off).
  8. Cook until the burger will release on its own (about 3 – 4 minutes), then flip and cook another 3 minutes. If you have an instant read thermometer, the temp should be about 160 degrees. About a minute after you flip, add cheese if you are using. You can cover loosely to aid the cheese in melting.
  9. Get a plate, put the buns on the plate, then the burgers on the bun. Leave the condiments aside for your guests to dress them as they wish. But it really doesn’t need much. the spicy ketchup is good on the fries too.

Homemade French Fries, for that special touch


Match Stick Cut

3 large russet potatoes, washed and sliced into thick match sticks (I leave the skins on): Place in a bowl filled with cold water

Deep 4 – 6 quart pot

approx. 32 oz vegetable oil (the oil should come 2/3rds up the sides of the pot)

Salt and Pepper

  1. Put the oil in the pot and bring it to 350 degrees. Use a candy thermometer to track the temp.
  2. Drain, then rinse the potatoes. Pat them completely dry using paper towels.
  3. When the oil is at 350 degrees, in batches blanch the fries so they are cooked (about 3 – 5 minutes), but not browned. . Drain on paper towels.


    Blanched Fries – first pass

  4. Once all the fries are blanched and cooled, you are ready for the second frying.
  5. Bring the same oil to 375 degrees. In batches Fry the fries until they reach a nice golden brown (about 3 – 5 minutes).
  6. Drain on paper towels and season with salt and pepper as soon as you take them out so the seasoning sticks.

That’s it! Serve immediately (with or without the spicy ketchup). I have to tell you, most never even make it to the plate. Have to do the taste testing thing.

NOTE: You can also use a mix of 85% hamburger, ground pork, and/or the meatball mix (pork, hamburger and veal). If you do, you can omit the butter as the rest has enough fat to keep it moist.

Vegetarian and Vegan Tomato Sauce – Quick and Delicioius


I have many ideas for tomato sauces, as they are many opportunities to use them and I have different ingredients on hand at any given time.

Below is a tomato sauce that is easy to make, takes less than an hour (in simmer time – not actual work) to have a tasty versatile sauce. It can be used with any pasta and stuffed pasta, chicken and fish dishes, etc.

And it is vegetarian to boot. I made this when at the last-minute, when testing a “lasagna” type stuffed portabella appetizer. I baked it, like I do all my stuffed mushrooms, and the filling just started to spread all over the pan. So I thought – what am I going to do now?

Well – I thought – it is supposed to be “lasagna”, so I decided to make a lasagna using the mushrooms in place of the pasta.. but I needed a sauce.

I went to my pantry to see what my options were. One thing I ALWAYS have on hand are diced canned tomatoes. So out they came with the low salt canned plain tomato sauce. I had some other fresh ingredient staples and voila – a tasty pasta sauce was made. My neighbor happened to swing by and did a taste testing for me and agreed it was right on point.


2 ~14.5 oz cans diced tomatoes (plain, Italian, garlic&onion, or whatever you prefer)

1 8 oz can plain tomato sauce

1/2 large onion, diced

8 cloves garlic, crushed or smashed

2 – 3 TBS Extra Virgin Olive Oil

Handful of fresh basil leaves (fresh is best, if you don’t have basil, oregano and/or thyme will work too)

salt and pepper to taste


1.) In a 3 – 5 qt sauce pot, add olive oil and onions. Saute for about 3 minutes, stirring once or twice.

2.) Add in the garlic and sauté another 3 minutes, stirring a couple of times.

3.) Add in the diced tomatoes and tomato sauce, stir and let simmer for about 30 minutes, stirring every so often so nothing sticks to the bottom of the pan.

4.) Add in the fresh herbs, stir and take off the heat. Serve just this way or blend (see Step 5).

5.) OPTIONAL –  In a food processor, blender or stick blender, blend the ingredients until all the tomatoes have been processed (watch out for hot spatters). Return to low heat for about another 5 minutes and then your sauce is ready to go.

There you have it. Dinner time.


Herbs: If you don’t have fresh herbs, you can use 3/4 TBS dried basil added in step 2.

Tomatoes: If you don’t have diced tomatoes, stewed, crushed, or whole canned tomatoes will work as well. If using whole, squish them in your hand to release the juices into the pan.

Minnesota Bean and Cheese Dip


This has to be one of the best-loved guilty pleasures I have with food. First off, if you are prepping for a game day party this is a must on your menu. Why do I call it Minnesota dip? Well, it is because I urge you to find one house hold in Minnesota that does not have velveeta in their fridge. In addition, just about everything comes from a jar or can and mixed together (usually in a crock pot) to form a great tasting stick to your ribs dip!

My aunt Lisa introduced this to me probably about 16+ years ago and it always disappears. And since the ingredients are what they are, it can last just about forever and freezes very well. I always make more than I need, because I can have it for breakfast, lunch and dinner and never really tire of it and I always freeze some for impromptu gatherings.

It is best served warm, so a crock pot or other such appliance is recommended. However, it can be reheated over and over and never lose its flavor. Heat it up and make sure to have plenty of tortilla chips on hand then put it out and watch it disappear.

Now on to the good stuff.


1 – 1.5 LB ground beef (80% fat is perfect – you can use leaner, but not necessary as the fat will be drained away)

1 med onion, diced

1/2 packet reduced sodium taco seasoning (or your own mix)

1 LB Velveeta, cubed

1 cup cheese blend (I like the cheddar cheese blend – this just adds a little more flavor)

1 24 oz jar plus 1  16 oz jar of salsa (Mild, Med or Hot, use whatever brand you like)

1 can refried beans (regular, vegetarian, any brand you like)

1 – 2 hot peppers, diced (optional)


  1. In a med large stock pot (6 – 8 quarts) Brown the ground beef and onions together in a pan, “chopping” the hamburger with a firm spatula as you go.
  2. In a colander, pour in the beef and onion mixture and shake to get rid of as much fat as possible (too much fat in the mix will change the consistency of the dip) – some rinse with warm water, but not necessary because you may wash too much of the flavor away.
  3. Reduce heat to medium. Add in the refried beans and 2 jars of salsa, hot peppers if using, and the taco seasoning. Mixing with the ground beef and until combined. Bring to a simmer. simmer for 5 minutes.
  4. Add in the Velveeta and cheese blend. Stir until all the cheese is melted. Stir regularly. If left to sit, there is a chance the dip can burn on the bottom of the pan. You want to AVOID this. If needed, reduce heat to med-low.
  5. Once all the cheese is melted, let simmer (stirring regularly) for an extra 5 – 10 minutes.

All that is left is open up the chips and dip in to taste!

The dip can be served immediately or in the fridge for up to 2 weeks or freezer for a year.

When re-heating you can use a microwave on heat level 5, or on the stove over med-low heat. Just be sure to keep stirring so the bottom does not stick and burn on the bottom of the pan.

Call over a few friends, put the game on and dip in.


VEGETARIAN: You can easily make this vegetarian by skipping the ground beef – just saute the onions and add in the vegetarian re-fried beans (increase to 2 cans) then take it from there.

OTHER CHEESES: Can’t find Velveeta – no worries – go to the chip isle and pick up the cheese dip next to the tortilla or cheese wiz in a pinch.  OR go old school and just use shredded cheese mixes – cheddar in combo with the mexican cheese mixes so readily available in the refrigerated sections.

OTHER MEAT:  You can use a ground chicken or ground turkey instead of ground beef if you desire. It will not impact the over-all flavor.

Fried Green Tomatoes with Horseradish Remoulade – Delicious!

Fried Green Tomatoes Connecticut Style

Nick’s Fried Green Tomatoes

This year has been a long growing season for tomatoes, but alas the weather is turning colder (at least in the north-east). It is time to pluck those last remaining tomatoes from your garden and hopefully they are a nice deep green.

There are many ways to enjoy those emerald gems, but one I found that sent everyone raving on the night of game 3 of the World Series and that fateful call against the Red Sox on Saturday, was the simple Fried Green Tomatoes. Out of all the dishes there, and a number I brought that I slaved over, this simple dish was the clear winner of the night.

It is easy, the time-consuming part comes in doing the triple steps for the breading, but well worth it.

Get out that vegetable oil, dutch oven/deep pot and find out what all those southerners have known since childhood to be some of the best food out there. I assume you don’t have a deep fryer – if you do – all the better. But any pan with sides at least 4 inches high will be enough (if you are using a fry pan, use less oil, and sear on both sides).

This recipe gives these delicious bites a little bite. that is the cayenne pepper. If you don’t want that heat, you can omit it or reduce the amounts. You can also substitute a few drops of tobacco in the wet mixture if desired. The little kick was great. I don’t eat spicy hot food, and these were ok for me to eat.


8 – 12 medium green tomatoes (they can be any size, and number, take note the amounts below may need to be adjusted should you have more or larger tomatoes)

enough vegetable oil to come 2 inches up the sides of the pan

Flour Mixture:

        1/2 cup flour

        1 tsp cayenne pepper

        2 tsp paprika

        1 tsp salt

        1/2 tsp pepper

Wet Mixture:

        1 cup Buttermilk (if you don’t have buttermilk, use cream with 1/2 TBS lemon juice)

        1 egg

        1 tsp cayenne pepper (can be reduced if concerned about too much heat)

        2 tsp paprika

        2 tsp salt

        1 tsp pepper

        1 TBS garlic powder


        1 cup ground cornmeal

        1 cup panko bread crumbs (don’t have panko – you can substitute regular bread crumbs)

        2 tsp salt

        1 tsp pepper


  1. Slice the top and thinly slice the bottom off the tomato.
  2. Slice the tomato into 1/4 rounds, set aside.
  3. In a small bowl, whisk together the Flour mixture to evenly combine.
  4. In a larger bowl, whisk together the Wet mixture until smooth
  5. On a plate or small flat pan with sides, mix together the coating by hand crunching and combining the bread crumbs, cornmeal, salt and pepper
  6. Prepare a baking sheet lined with parchment paper, or place a wire cooking rack on top.
  7. Line up the bowls/platters in an assembly line: Tomatoes, flour, wet mixture, coating and baking sheet.
  8. You can do one at a time, or a couple at a time. I usually use tongs so my fingers don’t get caked going from dry to wet to dry – but that is fine too, you just may need to wash your hands a few times.
  9. So, first you toss the slice in the flour to lightly coat. shake off excess flour (hand as perfectly fine for this step).
  10. Second, dip it in the wet mixture to evenly coat, shaking off extra – i twirl it around the bowl to release the extra. this is where I use tongs.
  11. Third, place the round into the coating mix, and sprinkle the top with some of the mix, and press down, then flip over and press down again so the coating sticks to each side.
  12. Fourth, Place on the baking sheet/wire cooling rack to set.
  13. Repeat until all rounds have been floured, dipped and coated.
  14. Cooking: Heat the oil in a pot and bring to 350 degrees (you can use a candy thermometer you can easily find these in the “kitchen” section of the grocery store. They are not expensive and a great tool to have).
  15. Prepare a second baking sheet with a wire cooling rack or lined with paper towels.
  16. Once the oil is ready, using tongs or a metal slotted spoon, lower the slices into the oil (add multiple slices, but don’t over crowd as the oil will drop in temperature and the slices will end up steaming vs frying, ex: if you think the pan can old 8, put in 4 – 5). This may take several batches to complete. No problem.
  17. Flip/ after 30 seconds to a minute to set both sides, and prevent sticking.
  18. Cook until golden brown throughout and the edges are slightly darker. About 3 – 4 minutes in total.
  19. Remove the slices either with a tong or metal slotted spoon to the prepared baking sheet to cook and remove extra oil.

Once all the slices are done, if you are not serving immediately, let cool and leave at room temperature. When ready to serve, place in a 350 degree oven for about 15 – 20 minutes until heated through and the coating re-crisps. I would not recommend doing these the day before. Doing earlier in the same day is fine.

What to serve with these delicious bites? Remoulade of course!

REMOULADE (This can be made up to two days in advance)

1/2 cup mayo

1 TBS Horseradish

1 TBS Spicy Brown Mustard (Dijon is fine too)

1 Stalk Green Onion, thinly sliced

3 – 4 drops Tabasco (optional)

Mix all in a bowl until smooth and all ingredients and mixed together.

Taste and adjust with more horseradish, Tabasco, mustard or mayo to suit your taste buds.

Use the sauce for dipping the green delicious rounds – or serve the rounds, with a dollop of the sauce and top with a couple of pieces of fresh micro herbs.

I hope you had a bountiful tomato season and can use this recipe. It is very yummy.

Kielbasa and Goat Cheese Quiche

Grandma's Quiche in bakeware pan.

(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Summer is upon us and family and friends looking to come and spend the weekend with you. What do you do that is fast and simple so everyone is fed for breakfast? Why not some Quiche – yes it is for men too. It is a fully loaded breakfast dish that can be made ahead, reheated the morning of and then everyone can just help themselves as they get out of bed and head to the coffee machine.

The best part it can be served hot or at room temperature.

Almost my entire family (up to about 20 immediate family members) were visiting for the memorial day weekend. My mom left a dish at my house from a previous party so I figured I would bring it back with breakfast int it.

The other good thing is, you can make it with a crust or without a crust. I made it both ways as I have a sister who is on a gluten free eating life style.

While I make this with Kielbasa, it can easy be made without the sausage to make it vegetarian. You can also substitute the kielbasa with any sausage, ham, turkey, left over chicken, etc.. And the cheese can be substituted for any cheese you like. You can also add additional vegetables like Broccoli, cauliflower, eggplant, etc.. The options are endless. The main note is, be sure when you sauté whatever vegetables you use, you cook them and give them time to release all of the liquid and cool down. If they retain the liquid (like tomatoes, zucchini, summer squash) it will make the quiche runny and/or soggy as the liquids will release when further cooked.

This recipe is enough to fill a 9×13 baking pan and then a little more. You can use 2 – 3 pie pans (may need to double the crust recipe) or have a second small pan on the side to finish cooking the remaining ingredients.

CRUST (if using)

1 1/4 cup all-purpose flour

8 TBS unsalted butter, cold and cut into small cubes

1/2 tsp salt

6 – 8 TBS ice water

2 TBS diced fresh herbs (optional)


I do this by hand because it is fun and you can tell when it is done. But you can use a food processor if you wish.

  1. In a large bowl, add the flour and salt. Mix together.
  2. Add in the butter and start crumbling the butter with the flour mixture working it until you have a bunch of pea sized butter clumps covered in flour.
  3. Add in the fresh herbs (if using) and mix into the mixture.
  4. Start adding in the ice water, about 2 TBS to start and add additional until you can form a ball and all crumbs are incorporated.
  5. Wrap tightly in plastic wrap and place in the refrigerator about 3 hours ( this will re-harden the now soft butter)
  6. It can be made a couple days in advance at this point.
  7. When you are ready to roll it out, take the ball out of the refrigerator and let sit at room temperature for about 1 – 2 hours before rolling the dough. If it is too cold when you start to roll it out, it will split and then shrink in the pan when baking it.
  8. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees
  9. Roll out the dough to fit the pan(s) you are using. Form the dough in the pan and poke holes all over the bottom (I use a fork).
  10. Cover with tin foil and place pie weights on top of the tin foil to keep the dough from shrinking during the pre-bake.
  11. Bake about 20 minutes, then remove the tin foil, but be sure to cover the edges so they do not over cook. Bake another 20 minutes until the dough is fully cooked and just beginning to brown on the bottom.
  12. Remove and let cool.


1 package Kielbasa, cooked then sliced and cut the slices into quarters

4 – 6 oz herbed goat cheese (more if you wish), crumbled

1 package Italian shredded cheese blend (2 cups)

5 eggs

1 pint heavy cream

1 pint light cream

1 med onion, med dice

1 red bell pepper, med dice

1 yellow bell pepper (or orange, green or another red bell pepper), med dice

salt and pepper to taste

1 TBS Olive oil for sauté


Preheat oven to 340 degrees

  1. Add the olive oil to a large pan over med to med-high heat. Saute the onions and peppers for about 5 – 7 minutes letting the liquid dry out or strain the vegetables from the liquid.
  2. In the pre-baked crust, add the sautéed vegetables and scatter to cover as much of the bottom of the crust as you can. Then sprinkle the goat cheese, Italian cheese and kielbasa over the entire crust.
  3. In a large bowl, add in the eggs, cream, pepper and a few pinches of salt. Whisk until just beginning to froth.
  4. Pour the egg mixture into the crust completely covering the vegetables and cheese. Pour enough in to come just below the top of the crust.
  5. Bake for about 35 – 45 minutes until the top browns and when you insert a knife it comes out just about clean (ok if a little egg sticks as it will continue to cook when you pull it out of the oven).
  6. Serve or let cool to room temperature and freeze or refrigerate. To reheat – heat the oven to 35 degrees and cook about 30 minutes.

Breakfast for 8. It is quick and easy.. To make it even easier, use pre-bought pie crusts in the pan or don’t use a crust. This freezes very well and your guests will love it.

Let Your Tastebuds Do The Tango Braised Pork Belly

Braised Pork Belly with Sauce

Braised Pork Belly with Sauce

I have made this dish a few times now and whenever ANYONE takes a bite, their eyes roll back and only sounds of pure delight escape. I have heard it described as many wondrous food experiences, and to really capture it, the sultry Tango dance probably best describes what happens when you take that bite.

WARNING: due to the overwhelming effect this has on one’s taste buds, I recommend serving in small portions and giving your guests (very lucky guests) a little time to gather themselves before serving the next course.🙂

I have been asked for this recipe by many people… or the question – HOW DID YOU DO THIS?

What is pork belly and what makes it so delicious? Pork belly is a fatty slab of meat connected near the pork loin and pork spare ribs. This section of meat is typically used to make bacon (smoked) or panchetta (cured). Basically, uncured and unsmoked bacon.

Pork belly can be sold in slabs (slab bacon is already cured and/or smoked) or in 1.5 – 2 in wide strips. Depending on where you live, this can be readily found. In other locations, you may have to special order it from a butcher or you can find it on line. If you cannot find it or don’t want to pay the shipping (can cost as much as the pork), you could substitute country style pork ribs or pork spare ribs.

Uncooked pork belly, with rind (skin)

**Note, you could leave the skin on, but I don’t. If you notice in the picture above, the skin is “scored” – (ie: Checker pattern cut into the skin).  The purpose of scoring the skin is to allow the rub to reach the meat. You can cut the skin off and fry it for some great cracklin.  

When I do this, I use about 4 LBS to serve about 15 – 20 people in a appetizer size (don’t really need more than this). If using the spare ribs, leave the bone in but double the amount you purchase as the bones will add a bit to the total weight. You may also need to double the amount of rub as you will have twice the surface to cover.

IF substituting another cut of pork, be sure to get some good bacon (about 4-6 slices) to dice up and add flavor and fat when sautéing the vegetables.

Did I mention this is NOT low fat?  That answers the question – WHAT MAKES THIS SO DELICIOUS. But it is also the reason for my suggestion to keep it to small serving sizes or as an appetizer.

I use a pressure cooker to make this, as I first came up with this combination, interest and process when playing with my new toy. While I use the pressure cooker, you don’t have to. I am writing the instructions for non-pressure cooker.

Note: You need at least 3 – 4 days to make this. This is a PLAN AHEAD recipe. Not much actual time in front of the stove or in the kitchen, but curing, resting, and braising time.


4 LBS Pork Belly, cut into 3in long by 1.5in wide strips (skin removed, if attached). The reason to cut into strips is to expose as much rub to the pork as possible.

4 TBS Kosher Salt

3 TBS Fresh Ground Black Pepper

3/4 Cup brown Sugar (light preferred, but dark will do)

1 TBS ground Cloves


1.) Thoroughly mix all in a bowl. Spread the pork on a plate or baking sheet and coat the pork on all sides using all of the rub/cure.

2.) Place the pork into a gallon sized zip lock bag (or divide between multiple bags). Do you still have more rub, dump it in and massage the pork to spread it around.  When ready, squish out as much air as possible and seal the bag.

3.)  Refrigerate on a plate or platter (may leak as the moisture releases from the cure) for 2 days (about 48 hours). Turn the bag over a couple times during this process.  This is to allow the juices to marinate each side.

4.) After the 2 days, remove from the bag and rinse as best you can under cold water. Some of the rub will stick to the fat so it is ok to have speckles. This will release when you brown it.

5.) Take out a baking sheet, place a cooling rack over the baking sheet. After you rinse the pork, place on the rack and then in the refrigerator, UNCOVERED, for another 4 – 6 hours to dry out.

Cured Pork Belly Ready To Sear

Cured Pork Belly Ready To Sear


APRON is essential

Pork Belly from above

2 cups Carrots (about 6 carrots), rough chop

2 cups Onions (about 2 med), rough chop

1.5 cups Celery (about 5 stalks), rough chop

7 large garlic cloves, smashed

2 large sprig of fresh oregano (1 TBS dried leaves if you do not have fresh)

3 sprigs of fresh thyme (1 TBS dried leaves of you do not have fresh)

3 branches of fresh parsley (.5 TBS dried if you do not have fresh)

3 bay leaves

3 14.5oz cans low/no sodium and no-fat chicken stock

3 – 4 cups white wine (I use sauvignon blanc)


Pre-heat oven to 275 – 300 degrees

1.) Move the pork to a dish to hold, and wash the cooking rack as you will re-use this for the cooked meat. Unless you have more, then get out a fresh one. Having the grate over a baking sheet will allow the fat to drip off. Don’t wory about losing any flavor, there is plenty of fat for multiple renderings..😉 Don’t have a grate? Line a baking sheet with paper towels instead.

2.) In a heavy bottom oven and stove proof pan (ideal, however, if you don’t have one that can do both, just have a pot with a lid that can be used on the stove and at minimum 8qt capacity), heat over Med Heat.

3.) This is where you put the apron on.

4.) Sear and brown the pork on all sides. Do in batches so you do not over crowd the pan. You want to sear that fat. It is OK if it is darker brown than you expected (even burnt – can always cut it off – enough fat to recover). The sugar from the rub will make it brown pretty fast. You want it crispy on the outside.

5.) Remove the pork to the baking sheet. Continue until all the pork is seared.

Seared Pork Belly Ready for Braising

Seared Pork Belly Ready for Braising

6.) Your pan/pot will have lots of fat and lots of bits left over from the rub in it. Pour the HOT fat, grits and all, into a glass or metal can. Wipe out the pan with a paper towel. Don’t worry about getting all the bits out, but as much as you comfortably can.

7.) The good thing about bits is that they are heavier than the fat, so from the top of the glass dish/metal can you used, add back about 3 TBS of fat back into the pan.

8.) Increase the heat to med-high and add in the carrots, onions, celery, garlic, bay leaves and herbs. Stir every couple of minutes until the carrots start to brown (about 10 minutes).

9.) When the carrots are browned. Add in the wine and let simmer about 3 minutes.

10.) Add in the chicken stock, stir and let go for about 2 minutes.

11.) Add in the pork and stir and cover as much of the pork as possible. Add additional chicken stock (or water – don’t worry water will be flavored and evaporate out in other steps) if necessary. It is ok to have part of the pork poking out of the liquid.

12.) Bring the whole thing to a simmer, about 10 minutes.

13.) Cover and cook for about 60 minutes. (it requires 60 minutes in a pressure cooker set to high and done, probably less, but I like it at 60 minutes)

14.) Check it, stir gently (don’t want to break up the pork), and replace the cover, slightly askew (so you have a good sized vent while it continues to cook.

15.) Cook another 45 minutes, then check it for doneness. It is done if you try to pick out out of piece of pork with tongs and it starts to break apart. It if doesn’t want to fall apart when you look at it, it is NOT done. Put it back in for another 30 minutes. Test again, and then do 15 minute intervals until it is done.

16.) When done, remove it from the pan and place on the rack to cool down.

17.) Now, place a large fine mesh colander over a large bowl, and strain the chunks out of the liquid. Press down to release more of the liquid from the vegetables. Toss the vegetables, but KEEP the liquid.

18.) Place the liquid into a large stock pot (can be same pan used to cook the pork) and bring to a solid simmer. reduce the liquid by 1/3rd. So if you have 3 cups of liquid, you should end up with 2 cups. Taste. If it tastes watery, then continue to simmer another 15 minutes and check again. REMEMBER – there will be a lot of fat on the surface of the sauce. You can skim this off now, or wait. Make sure you stir it up a bit so when you taste you are not getting a mouth full of fat.

19.) Now you are going to be disappointed. Sorry about this, but it is still not time to eat it… Although I still taste test about now. What i do is take 1/2 of one of the pieces of pork, over med high heat (need that apron again – it will splatter), sear the pork again on all sides, and then pour a little sauce over it and taste. Yumm.. BUT you are not done yet.

20.) With braising, being able to let all of this goodness sit over night it a BIG key. It only gets better. Put the sauce in a ziplock bag or container and the pork in a separate bag or container and refrigerate over night.

21.) Magically – the sauce will separate allowing you to easily remove the extra fat and have a beautiful sauce to serve with your pork.


Braised Pork Belly In sauce in pan

Braised Pork Belly In sauce in pan

Yes, we are finally here. Hopefully, you will agree that while there were many steps, these last few make it worth your while. As I mentioned at the beginning, no one will walk away less than fulfilled.

1.) When you are ready, take out the pork, slice in to 1 inch cubes and let sit at room temperature about 15 minutes.

2.) Add the sauce back to a sauce pan over low heat, just to make it nice and warm.

3.) Put a large saucepan on over med heat. (Put that apron back on – there will be more splatter)

4.) Add the pork to the pan, leaving space in between each to allow it to sear nice and brown on all sides making the outer-edges nice and crispy while the interior is soft and juicy. You may have to do this in batches.

5.) Place the pork into a large bowl with appetizer plates on the side, or other individual dishes and spoon the sauce over top. Then serve hot with a spoon. You can use a fork, but the spoon will allow the sauce to enjoyed with the deliciousness.

** You can also add the sauce the pan to heat in the final step, just be sure to strain out most of the rendered fat.. Yes there will be more rendered fat.  But that makes it healthier right?  ;)


Serve French Dip Style (dip the bun in the sauce, then top with the pork), or just on a bun with pickled red onions, or other accompaniments.

I hope you enjoy this as much as everyone I have served.

Caponate – Italian Eggplant Relish

English: sicilian vegetarian dish with eggplan...

A wonderful woman whom I met at a fun food event in NYC recently, forwarded me this classic Italian recipe. This would be a great dish to bring for picnics or outdoor gatherings as there are no ingredients that would spoil in the sun and it is delicious!

It is also a nice side dish for a meal any time.

OPTIONS: Toss with some orzo, rice or other pasta to turn it into a main dish. While the main feature of this dish is eggplant, I see no reason summer squash and zucchini can’t be used as substitutes or added. It would be delicious. And to spice it up, with the summer growing season on us, toss in a little hot peppers. If you are adding ingredients to the list below, be sure to increase the vinegar, sugar and oil slightly (start with 1 TBS vinegar to a pinch of sugar). For the oil, be sure the oil is enough to coat the vegetables when added to the sauté pan.

Thank you Angelina!


  1. 1 medium size eggplant, cut into 1/2 inch cubes
  2. 1 red pepper, seeds removed, and cut into a large dice
  3. 1 green pepper, seeds removed, and cut into a large dice
  4. 5 celery stalks, cut into a large dice
  5. 2 medium white onions, cut into a large dice
  6. green olives, pits removed and quartered (pimentos are fine to leave in)
  7. ½ tsp sugar
  8. 1/3 cup white vinegar
  9. 1.5 TBS sunflower oil (if you do not have sunflower oil, extra virgin olive oil is fine)


  1. In a large saucepan over med heat, add the sunflower oil and heat until it starts to shimmer (about 1 minute)
  2. Add in the vegetables (eggplant, red and green peppers, celery, onion, olives) and sauté (fry) them in the oil. Stir every minute or so until the eggplant is a nice golden brown on all sides (about 7 – 10 minutes).
  3. When they are almost cooked through and the eggplant a nice color, place them in a bowl and set aside. They will continue to cook as they are still hot.
  4. Add the vinegar and the sugar to the same pan and heat over med heat until the sugar dissolves ( about 2 minutes).
  5. When the vinegar is dissolved, add the vegetables back into the fry pan, toss with the vinegar and then let them boil in the sugar/vinegar solution for – 5 – 10 minutes. Stir often making sure nothing is burned and flavors are blending together.
  6. It is now ready to serve, hot, cold or room (outdoor) temperature.

This recipe can also be made and pickled for future use as a relish, added to a chicken, pasta dish for extra flavor or used as a topping on some toasted bread for an appetizer.


  1. Place the cooked mixture in pickling jars.
  2. Boil jars 2-3 minutes to kill any bacteria.
  3. Let the jars cool and then place them in a cool place.
  4. Can keep for 3 to 6 months.

Enjoy. I do see this on the menu for my July barbecue.

Braised Sauerkraut, Brats and Knockwurst

Braised Brats & Knockwurst

Braised Brats & Knockwurst

It is a nice chilly slightly overcast May day out and I am in the mood for some sausage and Sauerkraut. To start, I want to make sure I have some great deli mustard, slightly spicy, and some nice deli rolls (like hoagie rolls). No hotdog buns for this hearty sausage delight.

I chose to braise the sauerkraut with the brats and knockwursts to impart more flavor, but to also take some of the bite out of the sauerkraut. BY all means, use the sauerkraut as purchased right out of the bag if you prefer.

Makes 8 sandwiches.


8 Hoagie roles, sliced most of the way through (but not all the way) and toasted

8 sausages (I used 4 Brats and 4 Knockwursts)

1 14oz can of low sodium, non-fat beef broth

1 16oz bag of sauerkraut

1.5 – 2 bottles of beer (A nice German beer or I also like Sapporo)

4 cloves garlic, minced

1 large onion, sliced into 1/2 moons

1 TBS olive oil

Deli Mustard for topping


1.)   In a large stockpot (6 – 8 quarts) over med-high heat, add the garlic and sauté for about 45 seconds.
2.)  Add in the sauerkraut, beer, beef broth stir and bring a med-strong simmer
3.)  Add in the sausage (you can cut in half if you prefer) and be sure the liquid covers the sausage.  Let simmer about 20 – 25 minutes.
4.)  In the mean time, add the sliced onions to a sauté pan with the olive oil. Heat over med-high heat for about 5 minutes. Stir about every minute so as not to burn the onions. But you do want some strong color on them. The purpose of doing this step is to take the bite out of the raw onion, yet still have the onion slightly crunchy

Sauteed Onions

Sauteed Onions

5.)  Once the sausage is cooked, remove from the sauerkraut broth. Set aside.
6.)  Continue to let the sauerkraut braise until almost all of the liquid is evaporated ( about 10 more minutes over med-high heat)

Braised Sauerkraut

Braised Sauerkraut

7.)  Finish off the sausage, on the grill or in a sauté pan, over med heat, add the sausage and let brown on all sides ( as best you can, it will roll around).
8.)  On the toasted bun, put a little mustard on the bottom, add the sauerkraut and onions, then top with the sausage.  Add more mustard if you would like.

Then grab a lawn chair, some napkins and eat away!

Enjoy the summer.

Delicious Lobster Lettuce Wrap / NE Lobster Roll

Delicious Lobster Lettuce Wrap

Delicious Lobster Lettuce Wrap

Maybe I was just really hungry, but I ate two and did not stop to talk or anything until they were gone.

Summer and Lobster season is approaching, while I typically prefer steamed lobster with butter, I decided to give creating a lobster roll a try. While this just shows the lettuce wrap, you can even bring this to greater heights by putting it on a buttered and toasted split bun New England Style. I would have wolfed those down, but forgot to get the right rolls, but I had the lettuce. I was not disappointed as you can see from my first sentence.


Makes two good sized wraps or rolls.

Butter Poach:

1 TBS Lemon Juice

1 TBS butter

1 Olive OIl

Salt and Pepper

1 cup lobster meat raw is preferred, but already cooked will work, just shorten the cooking time (equivalent of the meat from a 1.24 LB or chicken lobster)

Note: You can also do this with shrimp, crab or scallops, You would need about 12 medium sized shrimp, 5-6 large sea scallops or a cup of bay scallops.  All can be prepared the same way.

Mayo Dressing:

1/2 1 avocado

1/4 cup Mayo

.5 TBS of Dijon Mustard

.5 TBS prepared pesto or chimichurri (can be replaced by 1 TBS chopped Cilantro/Parsley and a splash of Tabasco. But the pesto gives it a little bigger punch)

1 stalk of celery with leaves attached, finely chopped

.5 TBS red onion, finely diced


You will need at least two large pieces of Boston Lettuce for the wrap, or your other favorite kind of lettuce.


Two NE Style top split buns.


Butter the insides of the roll, and place butter side down in a pan over med-heat. Press down so the entire inside makes contact with the pan. You may have to hold it with a spatula to keep it down.


  1. Poach the Lobster: You can leave it in the shell or removing it from the shell (If cooked already, remove it from the shell and give it a large dice).
  2. In a medium sauté pan, over med heat, add the butter, oil and lemon juice. Bring to a light simmer. Add in the lobster (if tail, soft side down first) sprinkle with a little salt and pepper. Let simmer and cover loosely (tilt it so the steam does escape a little). After about 4 minutes (for a whole tail, less time depending on if already chopped or cooked), flip it over and finish simmering for another 3 – 4 minutes until fully cooked.
  3. Remove from the pan and let cool until it can be handled.
  4. Make the mayo: Combine all the dressing ingredients in a bowl and stir to combine, you may need to mash the avocado a little to get it to blend. It is OK to have small chunks.
  5. Taste, adjust with salt, pepper or a little more mayo, mustard, etc.. as needed. Add just a little at a time.
  6. Once the lobster can be handled, remove the meat from the shell and give it a rough dice (they taste great just like this!)
  7. In a separate bowl, add the lobster. Then start with 1.5 TBS of the mayo mixture and stir to mix well. If more mayo is needed, add more about .5 TBS at a time. If you have leftover may – GREAT! It is a great spread for sandwiches of all kinds.

NOW – spoon it into those buttered heated buns or crispy lettuce leaves, turn off the phones and email, and take a bite. yummmm. Best if it is still slightly warm, but still great if chilled.

VEGETARIAN:  Make a Potato Salad, cut up potatoes into cubes, and boil in vegetable broth, strain and toss with the mayo.  Yummy!

Or Use sauted mushrooms, corn, cucumbers, even tofu!

What Else?

Use grilled chicken or left over turkey from Thanksgiving,

Save any extra mayo or lobster (yea right) covered in the fridge for up to 3 days.

Let me know what you think, especially if you are from New England.

Yes I ate both!

Yes I ate both!

Pub Cheese Dip

I love cheese. I love cheese that is melted and is great with bread, warm pretzles, chips, etc.. So when you dip, a nice long string extends from the chip back to the dip and you wrap that string around the chip or your finger so you get as much as you can and then when you eat it, the flavors… YUMMMM

This is a great easy recipe for a cheesy pub / fondue dip. Get out some warm bread, warm pretzles, or even veggies if you wish and prepare this simple and quick dip.


  • 1 TBS unsalted Butter
  • 2 tsp powdered/ground mustard
  • 2 – 3 TBS Flour
  • 1 TBS white pepper
  • 1/2 TBS Salt
  • 3 garlic cloves, Crushed or pressed through a garlic press
  • 1 cup sharp cheddar, shredded
  • 1 cup Monterey Jack, shredded  (or colby cheese)
  • 1/2 cup Shredded Pepper Jack (optional)
  • 6 oz Dark Beer (or amber beer or your favorite beer)

** The types of cheese can be changed based on what you like.  Just make sure it adds up to 2 – 2.5 cups.


  1. In a sauce pan, rub the garlic around the bottom and edges of the pan.
  2. Over med heat, add the butter to the pan, and using a wooden spoon or heat resistant spatula, stir the garlic and butter together until the garlic is soft.
  3. Add in the beer (1/2 bottle) and bring to a simmer (about 5 minutes)
  4. In the mean time, combine all the shredded cheese, flour, mustard, salt, and pepper. Toss to coat the cheese evenly.
  5. After the beer mixture has simmered for 3 minutes, add in the cheese mixture.
  6. Stir constantly until all is mixed in well and you have a smooth creamy sauce.

That is is.

Serve with bread cubes, carrots/celery, as an alternative cheese topping to cheese steaks, spread on sandwiches, etc.

Can easily be reheated over low heat in the microwave or stove top.

Pickle Sushi

Or just a cleaver disguise for a cold cut roll up?

Or just a cleaver disguise for a cold cut roll up?

I had something like this in a restaurant in Minneapolis during a recent visit and thought, why haven’t I thought of this? I LOVE LOVE LOVE Dill Pickles, not the sweet kind, but Dill. Eat them almost every day; whole, halves, spears, hamburger chips, gherkins, relish, etc.. I chop them up and add them to tuna and chicken salads, my version of a big mac sauce, and just plain ol sit down with a jar and go to town.

In a way I have done something like this recipe as a snack, but I am not including that because then I have to admit I like Miracle Whip, which I do with Ham and pickles.

I am on a tangent so back to pickle sushi. It is really just a pickle roll up with deli meat and a delicious cheese spread.

The below is my version, but there are a TON of variations you can do if you just get creative with spreads, condiments even replacing pickles with other items like celery, carrots, bell peppers or even hot peppers.

The beauty of these is they make quick snacks, appetizers or a lunch replacement. My dog even loves these. Must be the cheese and meat and he doesn’t even realize he is eating a pickle.

Onto the recipe:


6 pickle spears (your favorite kind)
6 large slices fresh deli meat (combination of meats is fine, I used ham and turkey low sodium)
2 TBS crumbled feta cheese
3 TBS cream cheese, softened or use whipped
1 TBS prepared pesto or chimmichurri sauce (or 4 sprigs of cilantro/parsley/basil, very small garlic clove, a couple of red pepper flakes, 1 tsp olive oil, pinch of salt and pepper)


  1. Put the feta cheese, cream cheese and pesto in a small food processor or blender and process until almost smooth. Ok for there to be some lumps.
  2. Lay the slices of deli meat out on a cutting board
  3. Spread a thin layer of the cheese sauce over the slices of deli meat
  4. Place a pickle spear in the bottom 3rd of the deli slice, and roll up. Repeat for all deli slices.
  5. Slice off any extra meat from the ends, then slice into 1 inch pieces. Place on a platter, with toothpicks and enjoy! Or if just for you, forget even slicing them, just eat the whole thing.

If you have extra, wrap each roll tightly in plastic wrap and refrigerate for later use. Eat within 3 days.

Other thoughts:

  • Mix 2 TBS cream cheese with 2 TBS ranch dressing and use that as the spread in place of Step 1 – and you don’t even have to get out the food processor or blender.
  • Add 1.5 TBS diced greek olives to the cheese mixture
  • Mix your favorite mustard (2 TBS) with the 3TBS cream cheese or mayo in place of Step 1 – and you don’t even have to get out the food processor or blender.
  • Instead of a pickle, use thinly sliced vegetables, carrots, celery, zucchini, summer squash, avocado, assorted bell peppers, etc…
  • Add 1/4 of fresh avocado to the cheese sauce.